Casanova primed to kickstart campaign in Irish Lincolnshire

Ado McGuinness is eyeing the Irish Lincolnshire as the springboard to a lucrative season for his new recruit Casanova.

The five-year-old made his debut for McGuinness’ Lusk stable in January, finishing third in a seven-furlong Dundalk handicap on his first start after leaving John Gosden’s powerhouse Newmarket operation.

The new turf Flat season begins at the Curragh on Sunday, and Casanova is all set for the valuable Paddy Power-sponsored feature handicap.

McGuinness said: “We’re happy with him – we were very happy with his run at Dundalk, and we just decided to keep him for the Lincoln then.

“He’s had a couple of bits of work on grass and I think if the horse settles, he’ll run a big race – he is inclined to pull hard in his races.”

Casanova is drawn 17th of 24 runners, something the trainer does not think will hamper his chances over the one-mile trip.

“It’s not ideal, but I don’t think it’s as bad over the mile as it would be over the sprints,” he said.

“I don’t think it’ll have that much effect, because he’ll be running into the elbow, so I think he’ll be fine.”

McGuinness has a number of other future handicaps in his sights for Casanova, with a trip back across the Irish Sea to England a possibility at some stage.

“We had him in the the English Lincoln, but I don’t think he’ll be high enough to get in,” he added.

“He’ll target all the premier handicaps in Ireland, which are worth a good bit of money – the likes of the Galway Festival, Guineas weekend.

“We’ll target all those good races with him, and see if we can pick one of them up.

“There’s the likes of the Galway Mile – and maybe, if he goes up a few pounds, he could travel to England for one of the big handicaps.

“They’re worth a good bit of money at home, though, so we tend to keep a lot of our horses here.

“Long-term plan, Galway, that would be a big aim for him.”

A gelded son of Frankel, Casanova won both a maiden and a handicap before McGuinness acquired him for owners Dooley Thoroughbreds for 15,000 guineas.

“He wasn’t overly expensive – we thought he would have been a bit more expensive really,” he said.

“He has ability, he’s a little bit keen in his races, but he seems to be a lot more settled now than he was, so I’m very happy with him at the moment.”

Among Casanova’s rivals in a typically competitive renewal, Ken Condon runs Teed Up.

The Gleneagles gelding has a race record of three victories and three second places in six runs, but Condon believes he will need to improve this weekend.

“He seems to have the profile, but this is going to be very competitive –  he’ll need to have improved from three to four,” said the Kildare trainer.

“Hopefully he has – but as I said it’s a competitive race, as you expect for a Lincoln – they always are.

The forecast testing ground is something Teed Up should cope with at least, because much of his best form has come in similar conditions.

“It’s always a test, and he’s handled it previously there a few times in the autumn,” added Condon.

“So that’ll be a help – because they’ll need to handle the conditions.

“Hopefully he’s improved. He’ll need to – he’s up a little bit in the weights, and it’s very competitive.

“He’s still open to improvement, being lightly raced, so we’ll see.”

Sheila Lavery’s Quizical will also appreciate conditions, with any further softening in the ground welcomed by his trainer.

Quizical, ridden by AP McCoy, wins the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland on Longines Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh
Quizical, ridden by AP McCoy, wins the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland on Longines Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh (Niall Carson/PA)

“He’s won at the Curragh, so we know he runs well there,” she said.

“The big thing with Quizical is the ground, he’s very ground-dependent, and this ground should suit him.

“There might be a couple of showers, which would be to my benefit because it might loosen it up.

“He’s where I’d want him to be, going into his first race, so fingers crossed.”

Like Casanova, Quizical – winner of the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland under Sir Anthony McCoy in 2019 – was also entered in the Lincoln at Doncaster next week, but that engagement was vetoed because of the more suitable going at the Curragh.

“We had him in at Doncaster as well – but as the ground at the Curragh seems to suit him, we’ll run him there,” Lavery explained.

“He wintered well, and we’re hoping for a big run. But he’s got a bad draw (21 of 24) – it’s a very high draw, so it just depends what side they go to.

“If they go to the normal side, the rails side, he’s got a very bad draw – but if they come to the stands side, he’s got a good draw.”

McCoy full of emotion following death of Pat Smullen

Sir Anthony McCoy struggled to overcome his emotions when paying tribute to Pat Smullen, who died at the age of 43 on Tuesday.

Smullen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2018, with his death coming exactly a year after the nine-times champion Irish Flat jockey persuaded McCoy to come out of retirement to ride in a charity race at the Curragh.

“He was a wonderful man. It’s very hard, it’s very hard on the family. It’s just a tragic time, it’s heartbreaking,” McCoy told Sky Sports Racing.

“We served our apprenticeships around a similar time. His was a lot more successful than mine was, so I’d known him a long time.

“Paying a compliment to him as a rider, he took over from as good a rider as I have ever seen in Mick Kinane (at Dermot Weld’s) and you wouldn’t have known. That is how good Pat Smullen was. You can try to think about races he maybe should have won – there aren’t any.

“It’s just horrifically sad. I spent a long time crying last night.”

Sir Anthony McCoy rolled back the years to ride in Pat Smullen's charity race last year
Sir Anthony McCoy rolled back the years to ride in Pat Smullen’s charity race last year (Niall Carson/PA)

Smullen convinced McCoy to take part in the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials in Ireland last September, and he rose to the task when making all the running on Quizical at the Curragh.

The 20-times champion jumps jockey beat other legends of the turf such as Ruby Walsh and Johnny Murtagh, on a day that helped Smullen raise over €2.5million for charity.

“It was very special,” said McCoy.

“I know he said that some of us were harder to persuade to ride than others, and it did take me a bit of time to think about it because I was a bit unfit at the time and worried about making a show of myself.

“But because it was for Pat Smullen and for such a special cause – there is no doubt it is one of the memories that will last forever in my mind. The Curragh was very special because of how the day went, the success and what he made of it. He raised the best part of three million in a very short space of time.

“It was a very memorable day and I know that he, having organised that, will have made a difference to people. It was a very special day.

Sir Anthony McCoy celebrates victory with Quizical
Sir Anthony McCoy celebrates victory with Quizical (Niall Carson/PA)

“He served his apprenticeship riding against Mick Kinane and Christy Roche. He rode with the best of them and learnt from the best. It showed what a world-class jockey he became.

“I looked at a picture this morning of a lunch in Leopardstown in February 2018. It was not long after that he was diagnosed with cancer.”

Quizical’s trainer Sheila Lavery is also finding it hard to come with the news of Smullen’s death.

“It’s just so sad and is too hard to put into words really,” she said.

“That was an amazing day at the Curragh and we all said at the time it was pure testament to Pat.

“It’s just devastating. We are all heartbroken. It’s pure despair that he was taken so young. I just can’t just begin to imagine what his family are feeling. It’s so heartbreaking.

“I think there were very few people Pat didn’t touch in some way.

“He was just one of those who treated everyone exactly the same way – the stable hands, or the owner, the trainer, everyone. He was just a really decent person.”

Pat Smullen with Sir Anthony McCoy and trainer Sheila Lavery
Pat Smullen with Sir Anthony McCoy and trainer Sheila Lavery (Niall Carson/PA)

Cancer Trials Ireland paid its own tribute the rider, hailing him “as a friend like no other” and underlining his “dramatic and unusual” degree of his fundraising efforts.

The charity detailed how Smullen’s work had resulted in nine research proposals this year that will be advanced or explored, that he had also helped raise €120,000 for ovarian and prostate cancer trials last November and earlier this year gave the go-ahead to fund a Next Generation Sequencing machine for St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin – equipment that could potentially open up treatment options for patients with all types of cancer.

CEO Eibhlín Mulroe and Professor Ray McDermott, who is Cancer Trials Ireland’s clinical lead, also pointed out Smullen’s contributions on a more personal level, making himself available for “interviews, photo calls, and phone calls – anything that might help people in a situation similar to his own”.

Pat Smullen raised millions of euros for charity
Pat Smullen raised millions of euros for charity (PA)

An open letter to the Smullen family concluded: “It is a mark of the man that he had such a wide-ranging generosity. Pat’s popularity – and humility – was and is legendary.

“It was truly remarkable, and inspiring, to see that these qualities can coexist with the drive and determination it takes to reach the very top of his demanding sport.

“Our thoughts, today and always, are with Pat’s wife Frances, his children Hannah, Paddy and Sarah, and his wider family.

“Clinical trials offer patients very real, tangible, important benefits – but they can also provide something as vital as it is intangible: Hope. That is Pat’s real gift to the people who come after him, who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“The outpouring of love and support his efforts have generated give hope to us all.”