Grendisar produced a scintillating display to capture the £100,000 Group Three Coral Winter Derby (3.20pm) at Lingfield Park on Saturday, February 27 and set up another tilt at the Coral Easter Classic on All-Weather Championships Finals Day.
The Marco Botti-trained six-year-old was runner-up to Tryster in the 2015 Coral Winter Derby but outclassed his rivals in the 10-furlong Polytrack Fast-Track Qualifier this time to gain a free and automatic place in the £200,000 Good Friday feature over the same course and distance on March 25.
Under a supremely confident Adam Kirby ride, 11/4 second favourite Grendisar ran on strongly from the rear of the eight runners to take the advantage inside the final furlong and power clear of his rivals to score by a length and a quarter in 2m 1.05s – just six one-hundreds of a second outside of the course record.
Race sponsor Coral makes Grendisar its 6/4 favourite to win the Coral Easter Classic, in which he was third behind Tryster last year.
Marco Botti, who is based in Newmarket, commented: “I am really delighted that everything went to plan with Grendisar today. I thought the pace was nice and even all of the way and Adam got the rights splits.
“Adam thinks that he is improving and he ran to the line today. This is one of the races that I wanted to win and we had the confidence coming in – to win the Winter Derby is fantastic.
“He loves the All-Weather and he loves Lingfield. He was a bit unlucky in this race last year and deserved the victory today. It’s great for the owner (Mohamed Albousi Alghufli) as well – he’s been lucky with this horse and Planteur.
“We always thought that Grendisar has tons of ability. He travels so well and has a turn of foot – he just needs the gap at the right time.
“I was happy today once he got up next to the horses because he kept going. Sometimes, he tends to idle a little bit in front but he ran to the line and Adam did a great job.
“If all goes to plan, the Coral Easter Classic will be his next target.”
Adam Kirby said: “I enjoy riding Grendisar – he is a very fun horse to ride. I have been unlucky on him a couple of times and all credit to connections for keeping me on him.
“We were going a nice enough gallop and it is all about getting him into a rhythm and switched off.
“His turn of foot is second to none – it’s about riding good horses who can do that with confidence.
“He is in great form and I think he might even be improving. He has got his confidence up and is in tip-top shape. The beauty of him is that he loves it round here whereas some of the others don’t.”
John Gosden was responsible for both the runner-up and the third, with long-time leader, Godolphin’s Maverick Wave (7/1, Robert Tart), keeping on for second, a length and quarter in arrears. Multiple South American Group One scorer Furia Cruzada (8/1, Robert Havlin) stayed on to take third on her British debut, the same distance back in third.
The Newmarket trainer commented: “Furia Cruzada has come from off the pace, had to wait for a run but got a nice run through in the end. I couldn’t more pleased with her. She had come up here into our cold weather and it was a very promising run.
“We don’t know how to compare her form at all. She showed good form in Argentina, having come out of Chile, and running against fillies, but she was up against some old pros around this track.
“She has run a very solid race and doesn’t have to run against colts every time – you have nice races like the Dahlia Stakes at the Guineas meeting.
“It’s nice to come here, run a decent race and we know what we have to work with now. She will probably enjoy it when the weather warms up a bit as well.
“Maverick Wave won the Huxley Stakes at Chester last year and he is a grand old horse. It is nice to see him come back – he lost his form towards the end of last year. He had a rough trip to Chicago and didn’t quite get over it but he seems to have come back in good order.
“I thought Grendisar put up his usual very professional performance, so it is solid form at this level around this track. We were taking on horses that know the course so well – they probably don’t need jockeys!
“We don’t have any plans for Maverick Wave right now. He has had two runs on the All-Weather this season and, technically, we could try and squeeze another one in to qualify him for Good Friday. It’s a month away, so it’s a possibility.”
Godolphin’s 7/4 favourite Festive Fare (Charlie Appleby/Andrea Atzeni) flattened out in the straight to finish fourth after holding every chance.
Course specialist Lightscameraction (pictured below)(Gay Kelleway/Luke Morris, 6/1) gained a fourth victory over the minimum trip at Lingfield Park in the £45,000 Listed Unibet Hever Sprint Stakes (1.45pm), the other Fast-Track Qualifier on the day, to book a place in the six-furlong £150,000 Unibet All-Weather Sprint over a furlong further on Good Friday.
The four-year-old son of Pastoral Pursuits captured the Unibet 3-Y-O Sprint All-Weather Championships Conditions Stakes on Good Friday last year and once again showed his liking for the course to score by a neck over the rallying Take Cover (David Griffiths/Andrea Atzeni, 6/1) in 57.90s. Dual Group Two winner Muthmir (William Haggas/Pat Cosgrave), who was sent off the 11/4 favourite, finished half a length further back in third.
Gay Kelleway, who trains in Newmarket, said: “I have got to give credit to my head girl Liz Mullen, who rides him out all of the time. She is 62 and probably the best out-rider in Newmarket.
“It’s wonderful for all of us. We have 25 horses in the stable and they all get individual attention. We have had a wonderful winter and this horse is amazing.
“Dubai is a possibility for Lightscameraction now. We are blessed to have a horse like him – he has never stopped improving. He has his chinks, like a lot of good horses have, but maybe we will get an invite to Dubai now. I love Good Friday but I also like to travel.
“He has got so much speed and we were a bit worried because Take Cover took a bit of a pull in front but Lightscameraction finished his race so well. We had him spot on for today and we are blessed to have a horse like this.”
Luke Morris added: “Lightscameraction was electric today. He’s an out-and-out five-furlong horse and the Polytrack suits him well.
“I was always confident turning in that he would take plenty of beating and fair play to Take Cover, who kept coming back at me. My horse is really tough and loves this place.
“I was happy to make the running if Take Cover didn’t and, when I felt that he was going a bit quick, I took a lead off him and it worked out well.
“It’s probably worth taking a chance on Good Friday, but he’s too fast really to get six furlongs.”
David Griffiths reported: “I was delighted with Take Cover and I think the 10 draw has beaten us. Andrea said that he to lose a lot of ground coming across but Take Cover has still got that quickness about him.
“He will come on for that through his fitness and, touch wood, we will go out to Dubai for the Al Quoz Sprint providing he is well and we get an invite.”
Maureen Haggas, wife of trainer William, said: “I am very pleased with Muthmir. He has never run around a bend before, so that was a new experience for him. He was good in the gate and was giving weight away all round.
“He is well overweight but we needed to get him out and give him a run to hopefully go to Dubai. This was the only race for him, so he really had to come here.
“A race will bring him on far more than work at home or racecourse gallops. He did really well and ran out of petrol in the last 150 yards.
“He has actually been much better at home this year. He can be very keen in his work and he has been much better on the couple of times he has worked this year, so maybe he is finally growing up at the age of six.
“That will have done him good, more on a fitness level than anything else, because he pretty much bolted on his first start of the season at York last year and still ran pretty well. He didn’t look like doing that today, so it was a good exercise.”
Sunblazer completed a hat-trick of All-Weather victories with a thrilling success in the 12-furlong coral.co.uk Handicap (2.45pm) and the six-year-old looks set to return to Lingfield for the £150,000 32Red All-Weather Marathon Championships Conditions Stakes (2m) on Good Friday.
The Kim Bailey-trained son of Dark Angel, sent off a 5/1 chance following handicap wins at Kempton Park and Wolverhampton, was ridden William Twiston-Davies and held the late thrust of Royal Marskell (Gay Kelleway/Luke Morris) to prevail by a nose.
Winning owner Norman Carter commented: “We came here to see how he would cope over a mile and a half and whether he would handle Lingfield. He has only run here once before as a three-year-old, when he never did any good, but he is a changed horse now.
“I don’t know what Kim has done to him but all of this National Hunt training must help him. He has got such a turn of foot – he sped through in a Class 2 handicap at Wolverhampton and he has caught them today.
“He is just a superstar and we have got to come back for the Marathon on Good Friday. He won off 94 today and will presumably get in, so why not? He’s won three times over two miles and the turn of foot he has got is incredible.
“The acceleration comes from his sire Dark Angel, while his second dam is the mother of Double Trigger and Double Eclipse, which is where the stamina comes from. We would be crazy not to come back for Good Friday.”