Al Agaila on hat-trick trail in Winter Oaks feature – Racing TV

Al Agaila on hat-trick trail in Winter Oaks feature  Racing TV

Al Agaila bids to complete her hat-trick in the talkSPORT Winter Oaks at Lingfield on Saturday.

Following three placed efforts last summer, Simon and Ed Crisford’s filly bolted up when opening her account at Kempton last month before following up in similarly impressive style in the Winter Oaks Trial over this course and distance just before Christmas.

An 11lb hike makes life significantly tougher, but a bold bid can nevertheless be expected in the £100,000 all-weather feature of Lingfield’s Winter Million Festival.

“She went up 11lb for her win last time out, when she won very impressively. She’s an improving filly, but 11lb is a big hike,” said Ed Crisford.

“She has a good draw (stall two). It’s a big step up, but if she can carry the 11lb extra then I’m sure she’s capable of better things.

“She’s potentially an exciting filly.”

The Harry Eustace-trained Makinmedoit was beaten two and a half lengths into second place by Al Agaila little over four weeks ago and does have a significant pull at the weights.

“Makinmedoit has been a star really and just keeps on improving,” said Eustace.

Makinmedoit (red cap) chases home Al Agaila at Lingfield
Makinmedoit (red cap) chases home Al Agaila at Lingfield

“We’re 10lb better at the weights with the Crisford horse, which probably won’t be enough, but we came from a long way back that day and there’s less runners this time round, which is extraordinary given the prize-money.

“If we could just sit a bit closer, you never know.”

Eustace has a second string to his bow in At A Pinch, who has not run on the Flat since 2021 but is fit from a recent spell over obstacles.

Eustace added: “With At A Pinch, the money was just too good not to roll the dice with her. She was bought to be a hurdler, but she’s got Flat form and there’s no reason why she can’t run a race.

“I was actually looking at the prize-money for Cheltenham the other day and if she was the very best hurdler we had going there, she’d be running for £125,000 added prize-money and she can run for £100,000 added in an eight-runner fillies’ handicap, so we’ll just see how we go.

“It’s extraordinary there’s less runners this time round than for the trial race a month ago. Everyone moans about prize-money, they put it on and no one goes for it, but there we are.”

Another trainer firing a twin assault is Charlie Fellowes, with top-weight Purple Ribbon joined by stablemate Tequilamockingbird.

Purple Ribbon steps back into a fillies’ handicap after finishing second to the highly-rated Belloccio in the Listed Wild Flower Stakes at Kempton in November, while Tequilamockingbird was only a short head behind Makinmedoit when third in the Winter Oaks Trial.

“Purple Ribbon is a very lightly-raced filly, but she’s very consistent. Barring an unfortunate run around Lingfield, she’s not finished out of the first two,” said Fellowes.

“She ran a blinder last time out in a pretty competitive Listed race. She’s got the class in the race, but she has to give weight away to everyone, which will be tough.

“But she’s a pretty good filly and I’ve got no concerns about the drop back to 10 furlong as she’s got plenty of speed, so I’m looking forward to seeing her run.

“Tequilamockingbird is a model of consistency and has a very good record around Lingfield – 10 furlongs around there is literally perfect for her.

“She was a bit unlucky last time out when they went absolutely no gallop and off a stronger pace, she goes in there with a nice each-way squeak.”

Charlie Fellowes is delighted with the prize-money on offer at Lingfield
Charlie Fellowes is delighted with the prize-money on offer at Lingfield

Fellowes was keen to give praise to Lingfield’s owners Arena Racing Company for putting on such huge prize-money at a time when owners are struggling to resist huge offers from abroad.

He added: “You’ve got to give all credit to ARC. It’s prize-money like this that will encourage people to keep horses in training and Tequilamockingbird is a perfect example of that, as she was due to be sold at the mares sale last year and I managed to persuade the owners to remove her from the sale and keep her in training over the winter for a crack at this.

“That is what everyone wants – to see horses kept in training in Britain. We have a fantastic industry and it’s frustrating for a lot of people that the cream of our horses tend to get sold abroad.

“The more of this (prize-money) we can get, the more we can keep horses in training and rebuff these ridiculous offers we’re getting from abroad.

“It’s all down to prize-money and the more money we can offer, the more we can attract our owners to keep horses here and the stronger our industry will be.”