Day At The Track

Captain Joy set to take out NZ Messenger?

06:00 AM 06 May 2010 NZST
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Captain Joy & Gavin Lang in full flight
Captain Joy & Gavin Lang in full flight

This time last week, most Victorian interest across the ditch was squarely focussed on Bonavista Bay approaching the Group 1 Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park. Today (Thursday), as the clock ticks down to Alexandra Park's $250,000, Group 1 Messenger Championship, that harness racing spotlight has subtly shifted to multiple Derby winning pocket rocket Captain Joy, following his eye catching run in the very same race.

But for Australia's leading reinsman Gavin Lang the best pointer to the son of Mach Three's chances in the 2700-metre Messenger was not his blistering finish to last week's four-year-old feature, but the fact he handled his maiden clockwise run with such aplomb.

"It is true that he finished the race off very well in the Taylor Mile but the most pleasing aspect of his performance was that he handled the right-hand way of going so nicely," the champion driver said.

In fact, most observers deemed that had it not been for his awkward second line draw the pint-sized colt could easily have gone from running fifth in that event to walking away with his first international victory.

Unfortunately it was not to be and Lang and Hunter were again unable to appease the barrier Gods leading into the Messenger, leaving their star to contend with a compromising starting position of 12 after the removal of the event's sole emergency.

"The draw isn't ideal but there's an extra lap in the race this week and a lot of the better chances on paper have either drawn wide on the front line of back there with us," Lang said.

"So it evens things up a wee bit for sure."

Also in his favour is an incredible record of adaptability and consistency; traits that have seen him win 18 races from 25 starts, almost exclusively at the highest level, and which should hold him in excellent stead on Friday evening.

"He's just a great little racehorse," Lang said.

And a big winning chance again this week.

"If we're going on last week's race, with that little bit of improvement that you'd expect given that his first run in quite some time, and providing he handles the step up in distance, he'll be in the mix for sure," the master horseman said.

And if the breaks go his way and the five-time Group 1 winner can stretch that record to six this week, a start in the rich and prestigious Harness Jewels series awaits.

"If he was to come out and win on Friday night, then he would probably stay on here to race in the Jewels, which is run at Cambridge this year," Lang said.

"But if not I'd say Susan would bring him home to get ready for the Chariots (of Fire), which should be some sort of race."

Jason BONNINGTON

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