Popular front-runner Caspian Prince (Tony Coyle/Ben Curtis, 12/1) made all to win the £30,000 Betway Conditions Race over five furlongs on Tapeta at Newcastle today, Tuesday, January 2.
The nine-year-old son of Dylan Thomas, after winning this Fast-Track Qualifier, is now guaranteed a free start in the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships over a furlong further on Polytrack at Lingfield Park on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, March 30.
Caspian Prince, who carried a 7lb penalty thanks to his G2 victory over Marsha at the Curragh in July, was quickly into his stride and settled nicely in the lead. He faced challengers on all sides entering the final two furlongs and it was Atletico (Roger Varian/Jack Mitchell, 4/1), successful over course and distance last time out, towards the stands’ side who emerged as the biggest danger.
Atletico challenged strongly inside the final furlong, but game Caspian Prince was not for passing and kept ahead to score by a head in the fast time of 57.90s, just outside the five-furlong track record of 57.83s.
Final Venture (Paul Midgley/Paul Mulrennan, 25/1), who finished well after being slow into stride, was a neck further back in third, one place ahead of the well-backed 7/4 favourite Intisaab (David O’Meara/Shane Gray), who had a change of jockey when Danny Tudhope gave up his remaining rides after finishing the nose runner-up in the second race.
Caspian Prince, a three-time winner of the valuable Investec Dash Handicap at Epsom Downs, now has won 18 races and enjoyed career earnings of over £631,000.
A delighted Ben Curtis said: “It is good when a plan comes together. Caspian Prince improved a lot from his last run [fifth at Lingfield Park over six furlongs on November 18], which I thought he would, and he was back down to five furlongs today.
“He is as game as a pebble and just loves running. Over five furlongs, he can run a bit quicker and enjoys that even more. I left it to him, got a breather in and when the other horse came, it only helped me.
“Caspian Prince is a legend [to ride]. Take him down steady and relaxed, turn him around and go as quick as you can, then fill him up for 100 yards and kick on again. He is an ideal ride.
“He has been around the block and run in every race he can, and comes here and is still loving it. If you could buy a horse like that every year, you would be a happy man.”
Carol Easton, assistant to North Yorkshire-based trainer Tony Coyle, added: “Caspian Prince is a superstar and I can’t believe he was the price he was back over five [furlongs]. He ran over six and just got beat and six isn’t his trip really.
“He is not an easy horse. Vicky looks after him and rides him all the time. We don’t do an awful lot with him. He is a little bit quirky, but a bit special.
“We will see how he is and see where we go. There is no definite plan. Qatar is a possibility, but I don’t think we will be going to Meydan. He ran in Qatar last year (February) and it seemed to suit him [finished third over six furlongs].
“I don’t know about the Lingfield final on Good Friday – we will just have to see what happens.”