NEWBURY Racecourse starts its 2017 Flat season with two days of great racing tomorrow and Saturday.
The Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials Weekend, which also has a beer festival on both days, features Classic trials, valuable handicaps and races designed to bring future champions along.
Saturday’s card, which offers £260,000 in prize money, is highlighted by three Group Three races, the opening £60,000 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes for older horses, which has an entry from the 2016 Investec Derby third Idaho, trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien.
The other two Group contests are Classic trials, the £60,000 Dubai Duty Free Stakes for three-year-old fillies and the £60,000 JLT Greenham Stakes for three-year-old colts, which has been won by superstars Frankel and Kingman in recent years.
The big handicap of the day is the £50,000 Be Wiser Insurance Spring Cup for older horses.
The 17 owners of three-year-old Makfi colt, Make Time, are dreaming of a good run in the JLT Greenham Stakes at Newbury followed by Classic success in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 6.
The twice-raced Make Time, unlucky not to be unbeaten, is owned by a partnership put together by Gail Brown Racing and trained in Sussex by David Menuisier.
He was purchased as a yearling for 62,000 guineas and went racing for the first time at Ascot last year. Sent off a 50/1 chance that day, he looked the winner of a seven-furlong maiden on good to firm going, but was caught in the last stride, losing by a nose to Frontispiece.
There was no mistake on his second appearance on September 28, with Make Time winning a Salisbury maiden over the same distance on soft ground by five lengths.
Gail Brown commented: “Make Time won extremely well at Salisbury but it is difficult to assess the form.
“He is very athletic and his work at home is encouraging – everybody thinks he deserves his chance in a Classic trial.
“Jimmy Fortune, who rode him at Salisbury, has been down to David’s and feels the colt has wintered well.
“Optimism is very important in racing, but we have a mountain to climb as it is very tough at this level, taking on horses owned by Coolmore and Godolphin.”
Brown was Menuisier’s first owner in 2014 when he started training near Pulborough and that horse, Speculator, won three races.
She added: “I knew David as he had been assistant trainer to John Dunlop. I selected Make Time at Tattersalls October Yearling Sales Part Two and Richard Frisby bought him for me.
“Like so many other owners, we will find out this weekend how good our horse is.”
Four Coolmore horses, trained by O’Brien, are entered in the JLT Greenham Stakes, led by Group Two Qatar Vintage Stakes winner War Decree. The others are Peace Envoy, War Secretary and Whitecliffsofdover.
Godolphin also has four entries, recent impressive maiden winners Benbatl and Dream Castle trained by Saeed bin Suroor, plus Barney Roy (Richard Hannon) and Swiss Storm (David Elsworth), a Frankel colt who won a Newbury seven-furlong maiden in September.
Newbury also stages a seven-race card tomorrow (Friday), when racing starts at 2pm and the feature event is the £25,000 Dubai Duty Free Handicap over five furlongs.