The plans for Johannesburg have taken a turn, and the 2-year-old champion will now make his 2002 debut in a proposed one-mile dirt race at Lingfield on April 6, according to the Daily Telegraph's
Internet site telegraph.co
The race was proposed by Lingfield's owners Arena Leisure, and is supported by the British Horseracing Board. The race will be for 3-year-olds, and will be part of Channel Four Racing's program on April 6, which is Martell Grand National Day.
Johannesburg's owner, Michael Tabor, called it "a great idea." He feels the timing of the race is "ideal" for the colt, and that "it makes sense to race Johannesburg on a safe surface for his first run of the year. I will definitely be there on April 6."
Trainer Aidan O'Brien also was sold on the idea. "This is a great opportunity to get a run into a horse like Johannesburg, indeed any horse being prepared for the Kentucky Derby or any other Classic race. At this time of year, being able to run on a consistent, sound, safe surface, whatever the weather happens to be, is most important," O'Brien said.
Conditions of the race have yet to be announced. Ian Renton, Director of Racing at the six Arena tracks, which include Lingfield, said: "It's such an exciting prospect. We have had excellent feed-back from owners and trainers about our new course this winter, and for Aidan O'Brien and Michael Tabor to give us such an endorsement is very important for us."
Renton also said, to accommodate fans wanting to watch the Grand National, a large screen will be set up at Lingfield. Churchill Downs is expected to take a live feed of the race to include in their Derby promotion.
Original plans had called for Johannesburg to race in the 7-furlong Gladness Stakes at the Curragh on April 13.