Appleby Five Among Strong Fields For AWC Trials Day


30 December 2023

Penzance and Roberto Escobarr feature among five Mick Appleby runners heading to Newcastle for the first All-Weather Championships Trials Day on Monday, January 1.

There are 71 declared runners across the six £45,000 handicaps and the winner of each race will be eligible for free entry to the corresponding Finals Day race at Newcastle, as well as a £30,000 bonus should they go on to win on Good Friday.

Lingfield Park stages the other All-Weather Championships Trials Day on March 1. Any horse that wins at both Trials Day meetings in the same category and goes on to win at Newcastle on Finals Day will be eligible for a total bonus of £75,000.

Penzance is set for an intriguing clash with To Catch A Thief (William Haggas) in the Boost Your Acca-Fenwa With BetUK Handicap (3.10pm) over 10 furlongs, with both horses chasing a hat-trick.

Formerly trained by Simon & Ed Crisford, Penzance defeated subsequent winner King’s Code (David Evans) by four lengths at Chelmsford in November and beat Storm Catcher(Simon Pearce) by the same margin at the Essex track earlier this month.

Appleby, who has been All-Weather Champion Trainer seven times, said: “I think Penzance is my best chance on the card. He won his last two starts really well and goes there in great order. He looks quite a smart horse in the making. Even before we ran him, he was showing us a bit in the mornings, and he has improved from run to run. I think he is pretty decent.”

Roberto Escobarr attempts to defy an official rating of 109 in the opening BetUK. Home Of The Acca-Fenwa Handicap (2.00pm) over an extended two miles.

Winner of the G3 Henry II Stakes for William Haggas earlier in the year, Roberto Escobarr made a perfect debut for Appleby as he routed the opposition by eight and a quarter lengths in the G3 Italian St Leger at San Siro in November.

Duke Of Oxford (Michael Bell) looks a leading contender judged on his victory in the Unibet London Stayers' Series Final, in which he defeated Enemy (Ian Williams) by nearly two lengths. Brian Ellison’s Virgin Bet November Handicap victor Onesmoothoperatoralso lines up.

Appleby said: “Roberto Escobarr has a lot of weight, but he is a big horse with decent form who should be able to carry it. He was quite impressive in winning the Italian St Leger and I think he heads here with a realistic chance. With his rating, he is likely to go overseas at some point in the New Year – the Dubai Gold Cup would be a possibility.”

Irish import G’Day Mate makes his first appearance for Appleby in the six-furlong Best Racing Odds Guaranteed At BetMGM Handicap (4.45pm) for three-year-olds.

After landing a Bellewstown maiden, the son of Havana Grey ran twice at Stakes level for Jessica Harrington, including finishing fifth in a five-furlong Listed race at the Curragh.

Sommelier heads the weights for Marco Botti after two impressive all-weather victories, latterly taking a Kempton Park novice by eight and a half lengths. Brave Empire (Roger Varian) and Harvanna (Karl Burke), who both defied a penalty in novice company last time out, return from significant absences.

Appleby said: “G’Day Mate has been showing enough and works pretty well. Even though I think he will come on for the run, hopefully he won’t be too far away.”

The Rutland handler saddles another new recruit in Kitai in the Always Gamble Responsibly With BetUK Handicap (5.15pm) over six furlongs, while Finery has form to turn around with Nine Tenths (William Haggas) in the Boost Your Acca At BetMGM Fillies' Handicap (4.15pm) after their meeting at Wolverhampton last time out.

Appleby said: “It looks a big ask for Finery as William’s filly was very impressive at Wolverhampton, although our filly has no weight on her back this time. The prize money is excellent, so we felt it was worth having a go, and hopefully she can hit the frame. Kitai has been doing some nice bits in the mornings. It looks a deep race but we are expecting her to run really well.”

Dual G3 winner Tempus (Archie Watson) shoulders top weight in the BetMGM: It's Showtime Handicap (3.45pm) over a mile. A maximum field of 14 also features Dear My Friend (Charlie Johnston), who captured the Listed Burradon Stakes over the course and distance on Good Friday, and Unibet London Mile Series Final victor Helm Rock (Daniel & Claire Kubler).

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