Former All-Weather champion Funny Kid faces seven opponents including Raymond Tusk in the £21,000 Betway Conditions Stakes (12.50pm), the highlight of a seven-race card at Newcastle this Saturday.
The extended two-mile Tapeta contest offers the winner a free and guaranteed start in the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Marathon Championship at Lingfield Park on All-Weather Championship Finals Day, Good Friday, April 10.
Funny Kid (Christophe Ferland FR/Julien Auge) was part of a memorable three-timer for France on Finals Day in 2018, coming with a swooping run to land the Betway All-Weather Marathon Championship under Maxime Guyon.
The six-year-old captured the G3 Prix de Barbeville at Longchamp the following month and was in the winner's enclosure again this season after landing the Listed Prix la Moskowa at Chantilly in June. He was last seen out in the G1 Prix du Cadran at Longchamp in early October, when he finished last on testing ground.
Trainer Christophe Ferland said today: "Funny Kid is doing well. He had a break in August and we feel he is back to himself now.
"He looks fit and ready to go, plus he is a horse who runs well fresh. His condition is perfect and, although it was a very long journey all the way up to Newcastle, he has handled it very well.
"He is a versatile horse and has run well on all types of tracks. You can ride him from behind or a bit closer depending on the circumstances, and he has big turn of foot. He is just a nice horse.
"The plan at the moment is to focus the All-Weather Championships because he enjoys the surface. If he is going really well, Dubai in March could be an option, otherwise he will head back to Lingfield."
Funny Kid winning on Finals Day, picture All Weather Championships
G2 winner Raymond Tusk (Richard Hannon/Tom Marquand) was 16th in the Melbourne Cup on his latest start in early November. Having made the frame in two G3 races earlier in the campaign, he met trouble in running when a strong finishing fourth in the Ebor at York in August.
Mildenberger (Mark Johnston/Franny Norton) steps up to two miles for the first time. The four-year-old came home third in the G2 Yorkshire Cup over a mile and three-quarters in May and did not race again until finishing sixth in the Listed 32Red Wild Flower Stakes at Kempton Park on December 4.
Two horses with proven course and distance form are Dubawi Fifty (Karen McLintock/Luke Morris) and Sir Chauvelin (Jim Goldie/Ben Robinson). Dubawi Fifty was beaten a head in the Northumberland Plate at the track in June, while Sir Chauvelin took third in the 2018 running of the prestigious handicap.
Newmarket trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam and owner Fiona Carmichael combined to win a Middle Distance Fast-Track Qualifier with Dalgarno in France last month. They are represented by To Be Wild (Paul Mulrennan), who finished third in a two-mile handicap at Kempton Park on November 20.
A strong line up is completed by Carnwennan (Charlie Fellowes/Kieran Shoemark), winner of the Northumberland Vase Handicap over the course and distance in June, and Infrastructure (Martyn Meade/Ben Curtis).
The feature handicap on the card is the £21,000 Bombardier Britsh Hopped Amber Beer Handicap (3.10pm, 10 runners) over seven furlongs. G3 victor Arctic Sound heads the weights for Mark Johnston and Franny Norton.
Newcastle's seven-race programme starts at 12.15pm and ends at 3.45pm.