Good Effort and Another Touch have guaranteed themselves a starting berth on All-Weather Championships Finals Day thanks to their respective victories in the two Fast-Track Qualifiers on Tapeta at Newcastle this afternoon, Wednesday, January 8.
Well-backed Evens favourite Good Effort benefited from an astute front-running ride from Ben Curtis in the £20,000 Betway Conditions Stakes (2.30pm, seven runners) over five furlongs, a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £150,000 £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championship (6f) at Lingfield Park on Good Friday, April 10.
Trained in Newmarket by Ismail Mohammed, Good Effort was stepping back in trip today following an impressive conditions race victory over six and a half furlongs on Polytrack at Deauville, France, on December 14.
With stamina assured, Curtis was quick to bag the stands' rail and started to increase the tempo at around halfway. Good Effort looked in control for much of the final two furlongs, with the rest of the field failing to land a blow until the line loomed.
All-Weather stalwart Royal Berth (Stuart Williams/Jason Hart) finished well to reduce the winning margin to a neck, with the filly Hareem Queen (Karl Burke/Clifford Lee) three-quarters of a length further back in third.
Curtis said: "Newcastle is not really an ideal track for that sort of running style - I gave him a good kick out [from the stalls] and wanted to make sure I got his head in front.
"We went a nice gallop the whole way and he was just playing with them at the end. He was pulling up a bit and not doing a whole lot. Luckily, the line came in time.
"He stays further on softer ground, so I knew staying would not be a problem, but he just got a little lonely in front, though he went on again when the other horse came to him.
"I think being able to gain that couple of lengths at the start, sitting on him until the two and then going again, worked perfectly. He has his ears pricked there and I think he is a happy horse coming out of it.
"He should be all right around Lingfield as he showed a lot of speed there, which he will need on Finals Day.
"I will leave it up to the powers that be and connections about where they go with him, as there might be a race in between, but he is clearly thriving at the moment."
Another Touch (Richard Fahey/Barry McHugh) looks a worthy contender for the £150,000 Bombardier All-Weather Mile Championship on Good Friday judged on his decisive victory in the £25,000 Bombardier Golden Beer Conditions Stakes (3.00pm, five runners) over a mile.
The Fast-Track Qualifier was a tactical affair, with outsider Trevithick (Bryan Smart/Graham Lee) taking the runners along at a steady pace. Another Touch quickened between horses to challenge second favourite Via Serendipity (Stuart Williams/Hayley Turner) entering the final furlong and readily overcame that rival to score by three quarters of a length. Home Before Dusk (Keith Dalgleish/Callum Rodriguez) finished third.
Another Touch, a Listed winner on turf in 2017, did not race on the All-Weather until November and is now unbeaten three starts on artificial surfaces, with today's victory coming on the back of handicap successes at Chelmsford City and Lingfield Park.
McHugh said: "They did not go very quick. Me and Richard [Fahey, trainer] were worried about that when we were speaking this morning, but we felt we had to ride him the same.
"He is going through his races a lot better now - he is really travelling and is like a little motorbike. He is very uncomplicated and makes a jockey's life very easy.
"He would have a fair shout around Lingfield with a good pace on and is a grand little horse."