Pyledriver And The Last Lion Headline Entries Lingfield FTQs

Fast Track Qualifiers

08 November 2021

The All-Weather Championships move up a gear at Lingfield Park on Saturday, November 13, with two Listed Fast-Track Qualifiers headlining the action. 

Group 1 winner Pyledriver stars among 14 entries for the Betway Churchill Stakes (3.40pm), with the winner of the 10-furlong contest guaranteed a start in the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic on Finals Day.  

Pyledriver is building up for a trip to Hong Kong next month having been off the track since June, when he provided William Muir & Chris Grassick with a first Group 1 victory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs. 

The four-year-old’s only previous appearance on the All-Weather saw him finish second in the rearranged G3 Classic Trial at Kempton Park last year, prior to his victory in the G2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. 

Leading All-Weather performer Felix twice finished a close second over the course and distance last season, including in the G3 Betway Winter Derby, before an excellent third behind Lord North in the G1 Dubai Turf at Meydan on Dubai World Cup Night.  

The Marco Botti-trained five-year-old was subsequently sixth in the Listed Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot and filled the same position in the Listed Steventon Stakes at Newbury in July. 

Botti said: “Felix’s last couple of runs at Royal Ascot and Newbury were below what he was showing earlier in the year. It’s possible that the trip to Dubai took more out of him than we thought at the time, so we decided to give him a break. 

“I have been very happy with his preparation. He did a nice bit of work at the weekend and is showing all his usual spark. I think he is ready to go again. 

“He has run some good races at Lingfield, although I think he has been a bit unlucky in defeat on a couple of occasions. The plan after this is to go for the Quebec Stakes back at Lingfield next month and then we will think about what we do in the New Year.  

“With Finals Day now at Newcastle, we think the track there is probably more suitable for him than Lingfield, so it could be that he stays here for an All-Weather campaign, with Dubai as the alternative.” 

Last year’s winner Dubai Warrior has excelled over 10 furlongs at Lingfield Park, winning on three of his four course appearances for John Gosden including the 2020 G3 Betway Winter Derby. Now trained by David Loughnane, he finished last on his debut for the stable in the G3 Diamond Stakes at Dundalk in September.  

Former high-class performer Salouen could have his first start since finishing down the field in the 2019 G1 Irish St Leger. The seven-year-old has made the frame four times at Group 1 level for Sylvester Kirk, most notably when going down by a head to Cracksman in the 2018 Coronation Cup.  

The 14 entries also feature King Power Racing’s Fox Tal, who was a close third in the G3 September Stakes at Kempton Park on his penultimate start, and Doncaster conditions race scorer Harrovian for John & Thady Gosden.  

The all-conquering partnership of Charlie Appleby and William Buick could team up with Bright Melody, who won a Meydan handicap in good style in February.  

The Last Lion is a fascinating contender for Mark Johnston in the Betway Golden Rose Stakes (3.05pm) over six furlongs, a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships.  

Now a seven-year-old, The Last Lion has not raced since defeating future champion sprinter Blue Point in the G1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in 2016, after which he was retired to take up stallion duties at Darley’s Kildangan Stud and then Hedgeholme Stud in Co Durham. 

Johnston said: “The Last Lion was basically infertile at stud. John Brown and Megan Dennis still owned half of him, so I bought the other half, we gelded him, and put him back into training.  

“Everything has been going very well, although when a horse has been off for five years, it is hard to know what to expect, but if he can run to anything like his best, he is well above this class. 

“I can’t recall having a horse come to us having been at stud, and I don’t think many people who have will have had a horse who was at stud as long as him.  

“There have been no difficulties in doing it. You just want to be sure that you have trained and conditioned them enough because you are wary of injuries after such a long time off. 

“Joe Fanning has ridden him in his last two gallops and was absolutely delighted with him. The horse has put on quite a bit of weight and looks very strong and very fit, so hopefully all goes well on Saturday.” 

The last two winners of the Betway Golden Rose Stakes – Judicial and Good Effort – also feature among the 16 entries.  

There could be competition from abroad with Harry’s Bar engaged for Irish trainer Ado McGuinness and Manjeer for French handler Carina Fey.  

Last season’s Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships runner-up Exalted Angel is also engaged.  

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