This weekend, the All-Weather Championships go international, with Fast-Track Qualifiers at Dundalk, this evening and at Cagnes-Sur-Mer on Sunday. Next Friday sees two more FTQs at Ireland’s only All-Weather racecourse, making sure that horses across the Irish Sea and the Channel have ample opportunity to get their places booked for Finals Day.
At Dundalk, Tracey Collins’ Captain Joy returns to the track where he has only been out of the first two twice in eleven starts. Captain Joy was last seen out on the All-Weather when a close third to Grey Mirage in the Ladbrokes Mile on Good Friday, 2015. The seven-year-old subsequently had two starts on turf in June, finishing second in a Listed event at Leopardstown and 10th in a competitive handicap at the Curragh, both over a mile. Tonight he faces three rivals, who are all experienced at running on the All-Weather surfaces. Bishan Bedi (Aidan O'Brien/Ana O'Brien) scored twice at Dundalk in December lines up alongside eight-time Dundalk winner Political Policy (Gavin Cromwell/Conor McGovern) who drops back in trip, while Geological (Damian English/Donagh O'Connor) tackles a mile for the first time. French trainer Pia Brandt is already a well-known name in the All-Weather Championships, having taken the 32red.com Fillies’ and Mares’ Championship race on Good Friday in 2015, with Fresles (pictured, white silks), and saw Metropol third behind FTQ winner Let’s Go in the Churchill Stakes this season. The Chantilly based trainer will be at Cagnes-Sur-Mer on Sunday with Metropol as she looks to get his third qualifying run in before Finals Day. She commented, "Metropol needs another race to qualify for Good Friday and he is in very good form at the moment. "He was beaten by some very good horses in the Quebec Stakes last time. He was with them until the last half-furlong but couldn't go with them at the end. Hopefully, he can run well and then we will head straight to Finals Day with him." Unlike Metropol, six three year olds will contest the afternoon’s Fast Track Qualifier, the Listed Prix de la Californie (2.15pm local time) to also book their place at Lingfield. Jean-Claude Rouget is the most successful trainer at Cagnes-sur-Mer in recent years and the Pau handler has two runners. Hurricane (Ioritz Mendizabal) is unbeaten in two starts including an easy course and distance success on January 16, while Camp Courage (Franck Blondel) has twice been placed at Listed level on turf. So far this season, the All-Weather racecourses have welcomed horses from as far away as Germany and South Africa and whilst they celebrate the best of British All-Weather Racing, following this weekend there could even be a significant French and Irish hint in the air come Finals Day!