Joy and Fun 'has more to offer'
The intention had been to bow out with Joy And Fun at Meydan after the Al Quoz Sprint on March 30, but trainer Derek Cruz said yesterday other options remained on the table after the tungsten-tough eight-year-old grabbed his first Group One victory in the Chairman's Sprint Prize.
Group One placed several times, including two Hong Kong Sprints, Joy And Fun was given a brilliant ride by Brett Doyle to turn the tables on Lucky Nine and have his name where it belongs on the Group One winners' list - and his trainer was no longer calling time.
'He's done so well for us and is still doing so well, we will take him step by step,' said Cruz. 'Dubai was always the plan for him next, back to where he won the Al Quoz two years ago, but I think every option after that is still on the table. We could even look at taking him back to England in June, that is one option. He was going to run very well in the Golden Jubilee Stakes there two years ago at the time when he got injured and Brett eased him out of the race, so it is still an option to go back again.'
The son of Cullen would certainly be an underdog if he were to head there for a match up with Australia's Black Caviar in what has been renamed the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, but then he has always done well as an underdog.
Joy And Fun has survived two potentially career-ending injuries, the latest when he fractured a cannon bone at Ascot, and his form went missing when he returned for five races during last season.
'But he was always going to need time after what was a very serious injury. I think my sons, Trevor and Martin, can take a lot of credit for us getting Joy And Fun back to form this season,' Cruz said. 'They put a lot of time into nursing him back to racing soundness again after that injury.'
Doyle said he had gone into the feature with some doubts about Joy And Fun.
'He had a couple of tough runs just missing out in the international and then up the straight last time and then when the wide draw came out, I thought we would need everything to go right, but it did,' he said. 'If anyone deserves to win a Group One it's Joy And Fun.'
Yesterday's finish reversed the Hong Kong Sprint conclusion, with Lucky Nine (Brett Prebble) having to settle for the runner-up spot and consistent Sunny King grabbed third.
'He was off the bridle before he usually is,' said Prebble of the Caspar Fownes-trained favourite. 'Going back to 1,000m, then up to 1,200m again might have taken the edge off him. Normally he takes me into the race but I was pushing him today and he'll be suited going to 1,400m next time.'
Centenary Sprint Cup winner Eagle Regiment (Olivier Doleuze) didn't bring his straight form to the circle course in finishing ninth, but may still be Dubai-bound for a rematch with the winner.
'The race in Dubai is a straight 1,000m and that is where he is a specialist, so if he gets invited, he will go,' said trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung.
Little Bridge looked to have his chance in finishing sixth after challenging fourth-placed Leading City at the top of the straight.
While one eight-year-old took the race out and continues to surprise on the upside, the end looks near for another, the former champion and Horse of the Year, Sacred Kingdom, who managed to beat home only stamina-challenged outsider Blaze King.