As recently as 2013, this Friday would have been a blank one for racing fans and there were at least a few voices within the industry which argued for keeping it that way. Just five years later, Good Friday is firmly established as one of the most valuable and competitive afternoons of the year, with £1m in prize money on offer at Lingfield alone where the track expects to welcome 10,000 spectators. And the Lambourn Open Day, which some warned would be under threat if racing was allowed on Good Friday, is still going strong.
Whether the All-Weather Championships initiative will ever fully eradicate the ingrained prejudice of some punters when it comes to racing on artificial tracks remains to be seen. But anyone who simply enjoys competitive racing regardless of the surface will find plenty to interest them (and there is even a card on turf at Bath as well).
The feature event at Lingfield is, as ever, the £200,000 Easter Classic, in which the bookies are currently betting 4-1 the field at best prices and there are three runners within half a point of each other at the head of the market.
Mr Owen, who was first past the post in the Winter Derby over this course and distance in February, and Master The World, who got the race in the stewards’ room, would both be worthy winners, but Victory Bond (4.40) could have a little more quality where it matters. He did not get the run of the race behind Utmost, another of today’s rivals, last time out, when Ryan Moore was forced to make ground out wide on the turn for home and Victory Bond’s effort petered out in the straight. With a better passage and perhaps a little more improvement on what is just his fifth start on the all-weather, he will be difficult to beat.
James Doyle, Victory Bond’s jockey, takes the mount on several well-backed runners on the Lingfield card, but the level of competition is such that he is unlikely to get an easy ride on any of them. Red Verdon, for instance, is 7-2 favourite for the Marathon but he is stepping up to two miles for the first time and does not have a huge amount in hand of proven stayers like Watersmeet and Funny Kid (2.00), who finished first and second in a well-run race at Wolverhampton last time. Narrow preference today is for Funny Kid, who went like the best horse in the race for much of the way last time and could reverse the form if Maxime Guyon can delay his challenge just a little longer.
Elsewhere on the card, Goring (4.10) could offer some value against Second Thought in the Mile, while Pursuer (3.55) is an interesting runner in the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle, where a top-four finish for Gronkowski would book him a spot in the field for the Kentucky Derby.