G3 runner-up Mountain Bell and prolific All-Weather winner Watersmeet feature among eight runners for the £25,000 Betway Conditions Race (1.15pm) at Newcastle on Saturday, December 16.
The extended two-mile Tapeta contest is the first of four Fast-Track Qualifiers for the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships Final over two miles on Polytrack, with the winner receiving a free and automatic place in the Good Friday highlight on March 30.
Lightly-raced four-year-old Mountain Bell (Ralph Beckett/Josephine Gordon) finished in front of G1 performers King’s Fete, Sumbal, Frontiersman and Western Hymn when taking second in the G3 St Simon Stakes over a mile and a half on turf at Newbury in October, 2016.
The daughter of Mount Nelson has made just two subsequent appearances, coming home fourth in this year’s St Simon Stakes and filling the same position on her All-Weather debut in the 12-furlong Listed 32Red Wild Flower Stakes at Kempton Park on November 29.
Watersmeet (Mark Johnston/P J McDonald) has gained eight victories on the All-Weather, including a Fast-Track Qualifier at Chelmsford City in March, and finished second to Winning Story in last season’s Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships Final.
Cohesion came home fourth behind Winning Story on Good Friday 2017 and the David Bridgwater-trained four-year-old lines up for the third time in the space of 21 days following two good handicap runs over shorter on Tapeta at Wolverhampton.
After finishing fourth over a mile and a half on December 2, Cohesion returned to Dunstall Park for a 14-furlong handicap on December 9, in which he was collared on the line by Velvet Revolution to go down by a short-head. Graham Lee partners the son of Champs Elysees for the first time.
Bridgwater, who is based close to Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire, said: “Cohesion was unlucky not to win last time out, when he was giving a lot of weight (16lb) to the winner.
“Mountain Bell looks the class horse in Saturday’s field, but Cohesion is in good nick at the moment and will definitely stay the trip.
“I wouldn’t normally keep backing up a horse quickly, but he looks very well and this is another valuable race – he doesn’t do much between his runs any way.
“Adam Kirby, who usually rides Cohesion, is abroad, but Graham Lee is a top-drawer replacement and we are hoping for a good run.
“This will be Cohesion’s third start of the All-Weather Championships, so he should get qualified whether he wins or not, and then we will make a plan leading up to Good Friday.
“He ran over hurdles at Plumpton in October and I was a shade disappointed that he was beaten, but I think the winner that day is quite a tidy horse and we probably rode him wrong.
“He will win a race over hurdles but, while we are contesting valuable races on the All-Weather, it is a great bit of fun.
“It was a really good run in the Marathon Final last season, when he didn’t get the clearest of runs. We were thrilled and Ryan Moore felt that we probably should have finished a bit closer, so I would like to think that we could have another crack at it.”
Cape Cova (Dougie Costello), third in a valuable Newmarket handicap in July, makes his first appearance for trainer Michael Appleby, while Master Singer (John Gosden/Robert Havlin) has won two of his three All-Weather starts, including a 16-length maiden success over 10 furlongs at Newcastle in May.
Northumberland Plate fourth Lord George (James Fanshawe/Daniel Muscutt), Italian Listed winner Cosmelli (Gay Kelleway/Tom Eaves) and Song Of Love (Shaun Harris/Charlie Bennett) complete the field.
A bumper eight-race card at Newcastle also includes the seven-furlong £25,000 sunbets.co.uk Handicap (4.05pm), which has 11 runners including the 2015 Bunbury Cup victor Rene Mathis (Richard Fahey/Jack Garritty) and top-weight Reckless Endeavour (Jamie Osborne/Dougie Costello), a dual winner at Dundalk earlier this year.