Forest Of Dean and Harrovian provide John & Thady Gosden with a strong hand in the BetUK Easter Classic, the centrepiece of Europe’s most valuable all-weather card at Newcastle on Good Friday, April 7.
The Gosdens are chasing their first winner on Finals Day, with Easter Classic runners-up Dick Doughtywylie and Wissahickon among the stable’s 10 previous runners.
Forest Of Dean and Harrovian have clashed three times already this season, with Forest Of Dean posting a last-to-first victory in a Fast-Track Qualifier at Newcastle in January.
Harrovian finished ahead of his stable-mate in two meetings at Lingfield Park, taking third in the Listed BetUK Churchill Stakes and fourth in the G3 BetUK Winter Derby, a race Forest Of Dean captured in 2021.
Thady Gosden said: “Forest Of Dean and Harrovian are in good order. They both ran solid races last time out in the Winter Derby and that was a strong renewal of the race.
“They have been running through the winter to get them qualified for the race, given the fantastic prize money on offer, and they deserve to be there.
“They both have similar profiles and it is hard to split them on the form. I guess we will find out more on Friday.”
Harrovian’s jockey Robert Havlin said: “There is never much between Harrovian and Forest Of Dean, and my fella always runs his race.
“The track at Newcastle seemed to play to Forest Of Dean’s strengths when he won the qualifier, but then Harrovian has finished in front of him the two other times they’ve met this winter.
“The tactics in the Newcastle race probably played to Forest Of Dean’s strengths rather than Harrovian’s, so I might want to ride him a little bit differently. With six runners, it would be hard to say which one will finish in front of the other.”
The BetUK Easter Classic line-up also includes Irish challenger Freescape (David Marnane), who impressed when winning at Dundalk in December and has subsequently wintered in Dubai.
Base Note drops back down in trip for Simon & Ed Crisford following a progressive campaign over a mile and a half, while Andrew Balding’s Notre Belle Bette steps up in distance after his third in the Spreadex Lincoln Trial Handicap.
United Front, who was fifth last year behind Living Legend, lines up again for Mick Appleby after two good runs on dirt in Dubai.
Berkshire Shadow tops a talented field for the Spreadex All-Weather Mile Championships, with all the runners rated between 103 and 111. The 2021 G2 Coventry Stakes victor looked back on song for Andrew Balding when landing the Listed Spreadex Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton last month.
G3 winner Positive is on a three-timer for Clive Cox after wins at Wolverhampton and Kempton Park, while Joseph O’Brien’s San Andreas lines up again after going down by a nose to My Oberon last year.
Chichester, an impressive winner of a course and distance Fast-Track Qualifier in January, and Listed Tandridge Stakes third Lord Of The Lodge also run for Keith Dalgleish and Karl Burke respectively.
A deep field for the BetUK All-Weather Sprint Championships includes Listed Fast-Track Qualifier winners Annaf (Mick Appleby) and Summerghand (David O’Meara), with the latter aiming to emulate Alben Star as a dual winner of the six-furlong contest.
Vadream makes a quick reappearance for Charlie Fellowes after an impressive Listed success at Doncaster last weekend, while Diligent Harry (Clive Cox) aims to become the first horse to win two different championship races on Finals Day.
Irish challenger Harry’s Bar (Ado McGuinness) is another contender to note as he seeks his 15th all-weather victory, with Mums Tipple (Richard Hannon) also entering calculations following a handicap victory at Chelmsford last time out.
Manaafith (Roger Varian), who is a perfect six from six on the all-weather, and dual Listed winner Queen Aminatu (William Haggas) are the headline acts in the talkSPORT All-Weather Fillies’ & Mares’ Championships.
Listed winners Shouldvebeenaring (Richard Hannon) and Perdika (George Boughey) feature among 10 runners for the Talksport All-Weather 3 Year Old Championships alongside the unexposed trio of Shaquille(Julie Camacho), Desert Cop (Andrew Balding) and Hello Queen (Kevin Ryan).
John Ryan saddles The X O, who has impressed in two victories at Southwell this season before suffering interference on his latest start at Kempton Park.
Robert Havlin, who partners the colt for the first time, said: “I rode work on The X O on Tuesday and he gave me a nice feel. I watched some of his races back and, although last time was messy, his performances at Southwell were quite impressive. I think the straight track at Newcastle will play to his strengths and, even though he has a bit to find on ratings, connections are hoping for a big run.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Earlofthecotswoldschases a repeat win in the BetUK All-Weather Marathon Championships, following his tenacious victory from the front 12 months ago.
Berkshire Rocco (Andrew Balding), who was just touched off in the 2020 G1 St Leger, will provide stiff opposition, while Fleurman (Olly Murphy), Barenboim (David O’Meara) and Nolton Cross (Hugo Palmer) have all shown progressive form this season.
Classic contenders go on trial in the opening talkSPORT Burradon Stakes, with last-time-out winners Arabian Storm, Flight Plan, Galeron and Obelix all entered in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas.
Obelix, a son of Sea The Stars trained by John & Thady Gosden, makes his first appearance since bolting up by seven and a half lengths in a novice race over the course and distance in September.
Thady Gosden said: “Obelix won well over the course and distance at the backend of last year, although it was not the strongest novice. The Burradon is always a strong race but, in terms of ratings, he is right in there with the rest of them and this looks the right place to start him off.”