The long-absent Military March is the star attraction as season 11 of the All-Weather Championships gets under way at Newcastle on Tuesday.
It is just over four years since Saeed bin Suroor’s inmate won the Group Three Autumn Stakes at Newmarket, but he has only made it to the racecourse twice since.
The now gelded son of New Approach finished a creditable fourth behind Kameko in the 2000 Guineas in 2020, but was last seen finishing down the field as a hot favourite for the Group Two Singspiel Stakes at Meydan in January 2021.
Military March will make his first competitive appearance in 999 days in the BetUK. It’s Where The UK Bets Handicap and Bin Suroor expects him to improve for his comeback run.
He said: “Military March had a setback and this will be his first appearance in a long time. He has been working well in the mornings, although he will certainly need the race.
“We gave him an entry in the Bahrain International Trophy and he has the option of that or Dubai afterwards, but I’m looking forward to seeing him back on a racecourse.”
Military March’s rivals include Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Blanchland, who won a valuable maiden at Newcastle last season before finishing second in the Group Three Zetland Stakes at Newmarket.
He has not managed to trouble the judge in two starts in Listed company this year and therefore has his sights lowered.
Chapple-Hyam said: “Blanchland has had a stop-start year so far, but he is fine now and I think we have him back in good order.
“He looked well-suited to the track when he won at Newcastle as a two-year-old, so it is nice to be taking him back there. I think we have a good draw in six and hopefully he can run a big race.
“An All-Weather Championships campaign is definitely something we are considering this winter but, depending on how this goes. There is a chance he might go to France for a race first.”
Other contenders in a 12-strong field include Harry and Roger Charlton’s Valsad, the Ed Dunlop-trained Haunted Dream and Capital Theory from Charlie Johnston’s yard.
Several significant changes have been made to the All-Weather Championships this season, including the removal of the ‘Fast-Track Qualifier’ status races which previously afforded horses free and guaranteed entry to the Final in each category.
The Finals Day programme, which takes place at Newcastle on Good Friday (March 29), will change to open handicaps, with the categories and prize-money remaining the same.
There will be two All-Weather Championships Trials Day fixtures, staged at Newcastle on New Year’s Day and Lingfield in early March, with the winner of each AWC Trials Day race eligible for free entry to the corresponding Finals Day race.
Any AWC Trials Day winner will also land a £30,000 bonus should they go on to win on Good Friday, while any horse that wins at both AWC Trials Days in the same category and goes on to also win at Newcastle will be eligible for a total bonus of £75,000.
The rule that requires three runs on the all-weather in Britain, Ireland or France to qualify for the Good Friday fixtures at Newcastle and Lingfield Park will remain. Horses will continue to be permitted one of these three runs to take place on dirt in either Dubai or Saudi Arabia.