Ireland’s All-Weather track Dundalk stages its first Fast-Track Qualifier of the 2018/19 All-Weather Championships tomorrow, with seven runners going for the €26,000 Become The Face Of BetVictor Race (6.30pm) over a mile.
The winner of the level weights Polytrack contest is guaranteed a free start in the £150,000 Sun Racing All-Weather Mile Championship on the same surface at Lingfield Park on £1-million All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 19th.
Captain Joy (Tracey Collins/Wayne Lordan) has an excellent strike rate on All-Weather surfaces, winning 10 of his 23 starts on them.
The horse plundered the biggest prize of his career when successful in the 2016 £150,000 Sun Racing All-Weather Mile Championship, while also finishing third in 2015 and sixth last year.
The 10-year-old grey would be poignant winner tomorrow, following the death of his owner Herb Stanley on January 3rd at the age of 81.
The Canadian, who had lived in Ireland since the 1960s, was a long-standing supporter of Irish racing and enjoyed success at the highest level with top-class jumpers Merry Gale and Derrymoyle.
Captain Joy’s most recent victory came in tomorrow’s race last year, when he was partnered by Pat Smullen – the jockey’s sixth win on the horse.
He last raced on December 7th when top-weight in a mile handicap at Dundalk – his first start since July – and finished sixth of eight. Wayne Lordan takes the ride for the first time on Captain Joy tomorrow.
Curragh-based Tracey Collins said today: “Captain Joy seems very well and has a good draw in stall one.
“He is getting that bit older now so we will see what happens tomorrow. If he runs well, we will make a decision about whether we continue or he retires.
“This will definitely be his last year so depending on tomorrow we will make up our minds about which way we are going.
“Mr Stanley was buried on Monday so it has been a sad week. Hopefully, the horse can put up a good performance and it would be great if he can get his head in front.”
The highest-rated runner in tomorrow’s Dundalk field is Theobald (Jim Bolger/Kevin Manning, drawn two) on 97, one ahead of the 96-rated Captain Joy.
Theobald was twice runner-up in Group Three company as a two-year-old and has since won two of his four starts at Dundalk. The four-year-old Teofilo colt finished third on his latest start in a mile handicap at the track on December 7th, when Captain Joy, giving away 2lb, was sixth.
Co Dublin trainer Damian English is doubly represented by Geological (Rory Cleary, drawn five), the next in the ratings at 85 and a five-time winner on the All-Weather, and four-year-old Twenty Minutes (Stephen Mooney (7), drawn six).
The line-up is completed by Tony The Gent (Ger Lyons/Sean Bird (10), drawn three), who captured a premier handicap on turf at the Curragh in July, 2017, dual winner Sevenleft (Sheila Lavery/Robbie Colgan, drawn four) and Wolverhampton scorer Descendant (Katy Brown/Gearoid Brouder (7), drawn seven).