Raymond Tusk (Richard Hannon/Tom Marquand, 11/4 Fav) was the brave winner of the Betway Conditions Stakes at Newcastle on Saturday.
The extended two-mile Tapeta contest was a Fast-Track Qualifier, meaning Raymond Tusk gains 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.
It was Mildenberger (Mark Johnston/Joe Fanning) who took the eight-runner field along up until two furlongs from home, when he faced challenges from both Raymond Tusk and French raider Funny Kid (Christophe Ferland/Julien Auge), winner of the Betway All-Weather Marathon Championship on Finals Day at Lingfield Park in 2018.
In the final quarter mile, it was a battle between Raymond Tusk and Funny Kid, with Raymond Tusk running on gamely to take the honours by half a length. Mildenberger battled on well to hold on to third, another length and a quarter behind. The winning time was 3m 32.72s.
Owned by Middleham Park Racing XXXI & Kulbir Sohi, Raymond Tusk was campaigned at a high level during the 2019 Flat turf season and put up a good performance when a staying-on fourth in the £1-million Sky Bet Ebor Handicap at York in August. His most recent appearance was in Australia's greatest race, the G1 Lexus Melbourne Cup at Flemington on November 5, when he finished 16th (beaten only five lengths in total) behind Vow And Declare.
Winning jockey Tom Marquand said: "Raymond Tusk is a gent.
"To be fair, the race worked out as perfectly as I hoped it would. Mildenberger went forward and made the running, although I actually thought he would take me a bit further into the race.
"The French horse (Funny Kid) forced our hand from a good way out but Raymond Tusk wears his heart on his sleeve and toughed it out well. The one thing my horse doesn't want is a sprint finish and two miles at a sensible gallop was spot on for him today. I only had to give him a couple of flicks and he was always just motoring on."
Looking ahead to the future, Marquand said: "Obviously, speed can be a bit more important at Lingfield but if does go there they will hopefully go a good gallop and it can play into his hands. He is pretty versatile as to how you can ride him - he can be handy or he can be dropped in, as long as the tempo is good for him.
"There are a lot of options for him. The new the races they are putting on in Saudi Arabia could maybe also be an option. I am only speculating but hopefully there are a few nice targets for him next year."
Raymond Tusk (right) gets the better of Funny Kid
Raymond Tusk with connections following his success at Newcastle, pictures All Weather Championships