Two Good Friday places are up for grabs this weekend as both Dundalk and Lingfield Park host Fast-Track Qualifiers for All-Weather Championships Finals Day on March 25.
A seven-race card at Lingfield Park on Saturday, March 5, features the £45,000 Listed 32Red Spring Cup (4.15pm), with the winner receiving a free and automatic place in the £150,000 32Red 3-Y-O Mile Championships Conditions Stakes at the same course on Finals Day.
Several horses in the 11-strong line-up have acquitted themselves well at Pattern level on turf including 2,000 Guineas entry Adventurous (Mark Johnston/Joe Fanning), who makes his first appearance since finishing fifth in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in October.
Three fillies are due to line up, headed by Great Page (Richard Hannon/Kieran O’Neill), who captured the Group Three Prix du Calvados at Deauville, France, in August.
Tutu Nguru (William Haggas/Pat Cosgrave) and Squash (Charlie McBride/Luke Morris) are due to re-oppose after coming home fourth and sixth respectively in the Group Three Oh So Sharp Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket in October.
Tutu Nguru was denied a clear run when a close fourth in the six-furlong Group Three Sirenia Stakes on Polytrack at Kempton Park in September and the daughter of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame made a winning debut at Lingfield Park in May, when readily taking a six-furlong Polytrack maiden.
Bruce Raymond, racing manager to Tutu Nguru’s owner Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum, commented: “We were hoping to get Tutu Nguru ready for the UAE 1000 Guineas but she did a couple of bits of work and still looked very wintry.
“She has really come to hand recently in her coat and condition, so we decided to have a pop at this race.
“She looks completely different now compared to a month ago and her form is useful. Having said that, she has a terrible draw in stall 11 and this looks a tough race, so we are hopeful rather than confident.”
Squash was also an impressive maiden winner on the All-Weather, scoring by three and a quarter lengths in a six-furlong Tapeta contest at Wolverhampton in July. The Pastoral Pursuits filly was beaten a head on her final juvenile appearance in a Newmarket Listed race, also over six furlongs, at the end of October.
Her trainer Charlie McBride reported: “Squash came back to us from the owner’s (Chris Budgett) stud at Christmas time and has been working well.
“We have been looking at the race for a while because she doesn’t have any penalties and seven furlongs on the All-Weather is made for her.
“She won her maiden easily at Wolverhampton and, if she can reproduce the form of her Listed second at Newmarket, she is going to take some beating.
“We would like to win a Listed race with her and, depending on how she gets on this weekend, we might consider a race like the Nell Gwyn Stakes. We didn’t put her in the 1000 Guineas because we felt that seven furlongs is probably her limit.
“She’s a little filly who ran consistently well last year and slipped under the radar a little bit. Her performances were rock-solid all last season and I don’t think she necessarily got the recognition she deserved.”
Race Day (pictured)(Saeed bin Suroor/Oisin Murphy) has already ensured his Good Friday place following victory in a Fast-Track Qualifier at the course in November – a race in which Abe Lincoln (Jeremy Noseda/Jim Crowley) finished well to take third.
Other contenders for the Polytrack contest include Haalick (Roger Varian/Jack Mitchell) and Above N Beyond (Tom Dascombe/Richard Kingscote), who have both been second in Listed races at Doncaster.
Dundalk hosts the €25,000 Coral.ie Race (8.00pm, five runners) tomorrow, Friday, March 4 and trainer David Marnane is hoping a drop back in trip can see Shalaman reverse the form with Mandatario.
The extended 10-furlong contest on Polytrack is the last of four Fast-Track Qualifiers for the £200,000 Coral Easter Classic at Lingfield Park on All-Weather Championships Finals Day.
Shalaman (Connor King) went down by a length and a half to Mandatario (Jim Bolger/Kevin Manning) in a two-mile Fast-Track Qualifier at Dundalk on February 19, his first attempt at the trip.
Formerly trained by Matthew Smith, Shalaman got the better of Group One scorer Parish Hall in the Coral.ie Race 12 months ago and subsequently finished fourth to Tryster in the Coral Easter Classic on Good Friday.
Marnane said today: “We tried Shalaman over a couple of miles the last day to see if he would get it but I wasn’t convinced.
“We are dropping back to a trip tomorrow that we know he can perform at. This is his third run and will qualify him for Good Friday which is where want to go, all being well.
“He has got to run at the least a very solid race tomorrow and hopefully he can win. It is a similar race to the last day but I am hoping there will be more pace.”
Yorkshire-based handler Mark Johnston sends over Watersmeet (Joe Fanning), who was fifth to Grendisar in the Listed coral.co.uk Winter Derby Trial on February 6. The field is completed by course and distance scorer Political Policy (Gavin Cromwell/Ronan Whelan) and Vivat Rex (John Feane/Gary Carroll).
Dundalk’s seven-race card starts at 6.00pm and finishes at 9.00pm.