Grendisar (pictured) and Rivellino both won Fast-Track Qualifiers for the second successive year at Lingfield Park on Saturday, February 6, to book their places for All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Good Friday, March 25.
Grendisar followed up his victory in last year’s £45,000 coral.co.uk Winter Derby Trial (2.55pm) with another impressive display for trainer Marco Botti in the 10-furlong Polytrack contest.
The six-year-old secured a free and automatic place in the £200,000 Coral Easter Classic over the same course and distance on All-Weather Championships Finals Day – a race in which he finished third in 2015.
Held up in mid-field by Adam Kirby, Grendisar ran on strongly to take the lead inside the final furlong and had enough in reserve to see off Evens favourite Festive Fare (Charlie Appleby/William Buick) and score by half a length in 2m 3.68 at odds of 4/1.
Marco Botti said: “I am delighted that Grendisar has put his head in front this time. Everything went well and in his favour today – it was a nice, even tempo and he picked up well.
“He just does enough in his races and, once he hits the front, he is not a horse that quickens away.
“He got the job done and we will head for the Winter Derby again. He keeps performing on the All-Weather, likes Lingfield Park and is back to his best.
“He didn’t run to his best on his first couple of runs after a break but then we brought him back here and he seems to enjoy it. He is definitely back to where he was last year.”
Coral make Grendisar a 5/1 chance to win the Group Three £100,000 Coral Winter Derby on February 27, just behind 9/2 favourite Festive Fare.
Godolphin assistant trainer James Ferguson commented: “Festive Fare was coming back on the line, after he straightened out and changed his legs back. William said that he is probably better on a flat track – he won his maiden here but didn’t change his legs around the bend at all.
“He probably still needs a bit of time but I wouldn’t be too disappointed with his run today. The Winter Derby is still in the mix and it would be interesting to see him take on the winner again but I will talk to Charlie and see where we go next.”
Lamar (James Tate/Luke Morris, 8/1), took third, a neck behind Festive Fare, on her final appearance. The five-year-old daughter of Cape Cross will be covered by Frankel following a career that yielded over £150,000 in prize money and five All-Weather wins, headed by a Listed success over Very Special in the Fleur de Lys Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield Park in October.
James Tate said: “That is definitely it now and Lamar will go off to stud this week and get covered by Frankel as soon as she is in season.
“It is a bit sad to see the back of her but she is rated 105 now and is a Listed winner, together with loads of Listed places. She booked her right to go to any stallion she wants to.
“She was beaten half a length and a neck today, giving away a penalty to the first two home. If she didn’t have that extra weight, she could have perhaps gone out on an even bigger high.
“There is a little bit of wondering how she would get on in the Winter Derby, when she would be getting weight, but it would be cutting it too fine to get her covered this season.
“She is valuable as a mare that I completely understand the owners not wanting to miss the upcoming breeding season.”
Captain Cat (Roger Charlton/Jamie Spencer, 6/1) just failed to snatch third when a short-head behind Lamar after being held up.
Rivellino (pictured below) captured the six-furlong £45,000 Unibet Cleves Stakes (1.45pm) for the second time for trainer Karl Burke to guarantee a Good Friday spot in the £150,000 Unibet All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes over the same course and distance. The six-year-old was seventh in the Good Friday feature last year when not getting a clear run and third in 2014.
Having his first start since the end of November, the 7/1 chance quickened strongly in the closing stages under Dougie Costello to collar German raider, 33/1 shot Gamgoom (Mario Hofer/Martin Harley), in the dying strides and score by a neck in 1m 10.64s.
Cold As Ice (William Haggas/Joe Fanning), who was sent off the 9/4 favourite following victory in a seven-furlong Chelmsford City conditions race in December, came flying from the rear to finish a length and a half further back in third.
Costello commented: “Karl freshened him up after his last run and Kelly, who rides him out every day, has been telling us all week that he’s class.
“He was well in himself and got a nice tow. I thought that we were going to go a lot faster – he can missed the break sometimes – but he was sharp out of the stalls today. I think being fresh was a big thing as well.
“He is back to his best and to get back-to-back wins in this race is brilliant.”
Mario Hofer reported: “Gamgoom has run a very good race. He had a bad draw on the outside (12) and I told Martin Harley beforehand to do what he wanted to.
“I think the horse has improved on his last run and we had a 3lb penalty, so I think that we will come back for Good Friday with a good chance. He’s a lovely horse who is improving all of the time.
“There is a Listed race over five furlongs here on February 27 and we might come back for that. We will take him home and see how he comes out of this before deciding whether to go for that option.”
William Haggas said: “I was disappointed that Cold As Ice didn’t win but she came home well.
“I don’t know whether we will look at the Sprint or the Fillies’ & Mares’ race on Good Friday. She has got plenty of speed but just missed the jump today, which compromised her position, although I was pleased with the way she came home.”
Realize also looks set for All-Weather Championships Finals Day after gaining another valuable prize under top-weight in the seven-furlong £45,000 Ladbrokes Handicap (3.30pm), stopping the clock at 1m 23.85s.
The Stuart Williams-trained six-year-old, successful in a valuable course and distance handicap on January 22, made relentless headway the straight under Oisin Murphy for a neck verdict at 6/1 over the front-running Certificate (Roger Varian/Andrea Atzeni, 8/1) and Shyron (George Margarson/Ryan Powell, 5/1 joint favourite), who dead-heated for second.
Williams said: “We will give Realize a little break and hopefully set him for the Ladbrokes Mile on Good Friday. He will still have a couple of pounds to find with one or two of them but the owners are very sporting and they would like him to run.
“That was a career-high mark today and I think that he won off his highest mark last time out, so he is going the right way. He tries hard, which helps, and is obviously quite a talented horse as well. My horses are in very good form too.
“He wouldn’t be giving weight away in a conditions race and we are getting to a stage where we would be pushing it in handicaps – we are going to struggle to find another handicap for him now.
“I haven’t had him that long. We bought him in the spring and gave him the summer off with a plan to run him through the winter. We planned on winning one or two of these races and he has won two already.”