Ireland is set to have a first runner on All-Weather Championships Finals Day after the ultra game Captain Joy (winner for us on Betfan) gained his place on Good Friday with a decisive win in the mile £19,000 Ladbrokes Conditions Stakes on Polytrack at Lingfield Park last Saturday.
The six-year-old, trained at the Curragh by Tracey Collins, receives an automatic spot in the £150,000 Ladbrokes Mile over the same course and distance on £1.1 million All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Good Friday, April 3.
Always towards the head of affairs under Pat Smullen, 9/4 favourite Captain Joy cruised up to take the lead a furlong and a half from home and soon quickened clear to score by a length and a quarter from 9/2 chance Alfred Hutchinson (Geoff Oldroyd/Jim Crowley) in a good time of 1m 35.04s.
Collins commented afterwards: “I am thrilled. Our aim was to come over and get qualified for Good Friday. Sometimes plans don’t go the way you want them to but today they did, thankfully.”
“He really likes that surface – he handles it really well – and I think, with getting older, he has got more relaxed. He was quite a highly-strung horse and he is taking his racing a little bit better this year.”
“He doesn’t take a lot of racing so he is going to get a break and we might freshen him up in a race at Dundalk on March 6 or we might come straight back here.”
“In fairness, he was rated 108 in 2013 and was beaten half a length by Fiesolana, who went on to win the Matron Stakes. He has always been a quality horse but possibly just not good enough on grass at the higher end of racing.”
“I didn’t have concerns about the course but I did have concerns about the travelling because he had a very rough sailing coming over. Lingfield is a little bit tighter than Dundalk but Captain Joy is a seasoned campaigner now.”
Pat Smullen added: “He is a nice horse and improving all of the time. Whatever it is about this surface, he is really coming alive on it. He was always a talented horse but has just got his act together now and was impressive out there.”
“Tactically, he has got a lot of early pace and that is vitally important because he is able to go there and get a good position. You can then ride an uncomplicated race on him.”
“I was quite happy going to the start – he felt very fresh and well in himself. Tracey has done a great job with this horse but he has always had talent and has put it all together. He will be a good ride here on Good Friday.”
Chelmsford City was given the green light by trainers, jockeys and racegoers when opening its gates on Sunday. Adam Kirby and Charlie Appleby provided the first winner with Tryster taking the Betfred Handicap by a short-head from Gaelic Silver and then had to survive a stewards’ inquiry.
Lie Forrit was a very game winner at Kelso on Sunday and all roads lead to Ayr for the Scottish National.
Tea For Two winner of the Lanzarote Hurdle over the weekend will run in novice company at the Cheltenham Festival and not the World Hurdle he is quoted at 14/1 with Bet 365 for the Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle.
The West Country wizard Paul Nicolls is 1/10 with Betfred for the GB Trainers’ Championship 2014/15 and 1/4 with Coral that seems a massive difference and Nicholls does look a shoe in for the title this year.
Hurricane Fly is 8/11 for the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown at the end of this month.
Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre will be hard to beat in the Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Back next Thursday.
Kevan Minter – The Colonel