2.35pm £19,000 Ladbrokes Conditions Stakes 1m, Polytrack, Fast-Track Qualifier
Grey Mirage battled on strongly to see off the strong challenge of Scottish-trained Chookie Royale to win the feature £19,000 Ladbrokes Conditions Stakes by a head and is now being aimed at the £150,000 Ladbrokes-sponsored Final on Good Friday (April 18, 2014) back at Lingfield Park.
Martin Harley partnered Grey Mirage and set what seemed to be a steady pace just ahead of his rivals in the mile race on Polytrack before kicking on turning into the straight.
The five-year-old, trained by Marco Botti who retains Harley, looked like he might win quite comfortably but the Keith Dalgleish-trained Chookie Royale, who had challenged for the lead earlier in the race and then raced in second, kept on well under Tom Eaves and was closing at the line.
The winning time ended up being a fast one at 1m 34.87s, just 0.10s outside the course record for a mile on Polytrack, and Botti confirmed afterwards that the son of Oasis Dream will take up his free guaranteed place in the Ladbrokes Final on All-Weather Championships Finals Day after this race, the sixth Fast-Track Qualifier of the new All-Weather Championships.
The Newmarket-based trainer said: Grey Mirage did well today, though I became just a bit worried in the last furlong.
I am very pleased and his form has been very consistent. He was rated 96 and will be a bit higher now.
Ideally, I would have liked the Final to have been over seven furlongs but we will go for it over a mile. We will try for a couple of valuable handicaps on the All-Weather, which he is best on, before Good Friday.
Harley commented: Grey Mirage is a good All-Weather horse. It got a bit messy in the back straight when they rushed up around me - I was getting a good easy lead until then.
But he did well - grinding it out. I think the cheek-pieces back on today helped him. He is definitely an improving horse and is competitive at both seven furlongs and a mile. He is just getting a little bit lazy at the stalls.
The third horse home, Alfred Hutchinson, finished two and a quarter lengths behind the second.
Horses qualify for the six championship contests on £1-million All-Weather Championships Finals Day (Good Friday, April 18, 2014) by running in a minimum of three races at Britains All-Weather tracks - three owned by ARC, Lingfield Park, Southwell and Wolverhampton, and The Jockey Clubs Kempton Park - between October 26 and April 12 or else by succeeding in one of the 16 Fast Track Qualifiers.
The winners of the first five Fast-Track Qualifiers were:-
1) 31/10/13 Listed 32Red / EBFstallions.com Fleur De Lys Fillies Stakes, Lingfield Park, Forgive (Richard Hannon/Silvestre de Sousa) achieved a guaranteed place, with free entry, in the £150,000 32Red Fillies & Mares Stakes, run over seven furlongs, on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 18, 2014 at Lingfield Park.
2) 16/11/13 Listed coral.co.uk Churchill Stakes, Lingfield Park, Prince Alzain (Gerard Butler/Oisin Murphy) gained a guaranteed place, with free entry, in the £200,000 Coral Middle Distance Final, run over 10 furlongs, on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 18, 2014 at Lingfield Park.
3) 16/11/13 Listed Best Odds At bookmakers.co.uk Golden Rose Stakes, Lingfield Park, Valbchek (Jeremy Noseda/Shane Kelly), secured a guaranteed place, with free entry, in the £150,000 bookmakers.co.uk Sprint Final, run over six furlongs, on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 18, 2014 at Lingfield Park.
4) 20/11/2013 Listed Winners Are Welcome At Betdaq EBF Stallions Hyde Stakes, Kempton Park, Sirius Prospect (Dean Ivory/Robert Winston) gained a guaranteed place, with free entry, in the £150,000 Ladbrokes Mile Final on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 18, 2014 at Lingfield Park.
5) 23/11/2013 32Red Conditions Stakes, Lingfield Park, Complicit (Paul Cole/Graham Lee) won in course record time and secured a guaranteed free place in the £150,000 32Red.com Three-Year-Old Final over seven furlongs on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 18, 2014 at Lingfield Park.