Last season’s All-Weather Mile Championships victor Captain Joy tries to set up another Good Friday tilt by winning the €25,000 Matthews Coach Hire Race (8.00pm) at Dundalk on Friday, March 10.
The Tracey Collins-trained eight-year-old captured the corresponding Polytrack Fast-Track Qualifier over a mile last season before going on to beat Sovereign Debt by half a length in the £150,000 contest at Lingfield Park on Finals Day. The winner of Friday’s race gains a free and guaranteed place in the line-up in the final on Good Friday, April 14.
Following two G3 appearances on turf at Leopardstown in the summer, Captain Joy returned to Dundalk to contest a mile handicap on December 9, when he faded to finish last of 11 behind Red Avenger, who was receiving 27lb.
Collins, who is based at the Curragh, commented: “Captain Joy is an intended runner this Friday and he seems to be back in good form at the moment.
“The real disappointment about his run in December was that he had to go for a 0-100 handicap because there were no other races available for him in Ireland.
“He was giving 8lb to horses rated 100, which was a bit ridiculous – he wouldn’t be doing that in the Lincoln at the start of the season – and then we have had to wait for this race.
“It’s hard to say whether he is at the same level as last year because he is that bit older but he is well. We will know more on Friday but hopefully we can get him qualified again for Finals Day.”
A total of 10 entries for the Matthews Coach Hire Race also includes Another Story (Sheila Lavery), who is unbeaten in two starts at Dundalk, and recent Chelmsford City Marathon Fast-Track Qualifier third Pique Sous (Willie Mullins).
Texas Rock (Michael Grassick) gained a pair of turf handicap wins at the Curragh in the autumn, while Red Avenger (Damian English), successful the Betfred Mile heritage handicap at Goodwood in 2014 when trained by Ed Dunlop, could re-oppose Captain Joy off level weights.