Lingfield Joy for Collins
Captain Joy made the journey from Ireland pay a rich dividend as he took the Ladbrokes Conditions Stakes at Lingfield.
In doing so, the Tracey Collins-trained six-year-old secured his spot on All-Weather Championships Finals Day back at the Surrey circuit on Good Friday, after what was the latest in the series of fast-track qualifiers guaranteeing a run on the big card.
Pat Smullen cut a confident figure throughout, tracking Brave Echo before hitting the front over a furlong out and always doing enough to hold Alfred Hutchinson, scoring by a ready length and a quarter.
Smullen said of the 9-4 favourite: "He's an improving horse, he's always had talent and he's putting it together now. He felt very fresh and well going to the start.
"Tracey has done a great job with this horse and he will be a good ride here on Good Friday. He has early tactical speed, and whether it is seven furlongs or a mile is irrelevant to him."
Collins told At The Races: "Our aim was to come over here and get qualified. Sometimes plans don't work out the way you want them, but today it has.
"He really likes that surface - he handles it really well - and I think, with getting older, he has got more relaxed. He was quite a highly strung horse and he is taking his racing a little bit better this year.
"He doesn't take a lot of racing so he is going to get a break and we might freshen him up in a race at Dundalk on March 6 or we might come straight back here.
"In fairness, he was rated 108 in 2013 and was beaten half a length by Fiesolana, who went on to win the Matron Stakes. He has always been a quality horse, but possibly just not good enough on grass at the higher end of racing.
"I didn't have concerns about the course but I did have concerns about the travelling because he had a very rough sailing coming over. Lingfield is a little bit tighter than Dundalk, but Captain Joy is a seasoned campaigner now."