The National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) Easter Monday holiday card is the biggest racing day for the year thus far in Trinidad and the two major events, the Grade One – NLCB Easter Guineas and Grade One – NLCB Champagne Stakes, will ensure there is a large holiday crowd at the centralised facility, Santa Rosa Park. We have already discussed The Guineas, which is the opening leg of local racing’s “Triple Crown,” for West Indian-bred three-year-olds, over 1,800 metres, for total prize-money of $315,000. My thoughts on the event are that it will be a battle between the top trainers, John O’Brien and Glenn Mendez and the Champagne Stakes will be the same. The Champagne Stakes is the first of only two Grade One events on the turf for the top-class horses on the local racing calendar. What a competitive event this is going to be. Over the years this event has turned up some good winners and punters are certain that this year will be no different.
From my perspective, there is a six horse war between Cactus Amour, Raging Halo, Boogie Blues, Just Call Me Roger, Silverleo and First To Fly in the 1,600 metres event on the turf. First To Fly won the Independence Cup last year but has disappointed since. The shrewd Maniram Maharaj will have to work his magic to get it to the line in front in the $150,000 contest at 2.52 pm. The Christopher Prime-trained and Derek Chin-owned Gold Cup winner, Boogie Blues, must be respected, as he galloped over 800 metres in 48 seconds to underline his well being. However, Sheldon Rodrigo gets the leg up in preference to Alan Maragh. The two top conditioners have the other four entrants in the contest. O’Brien has the SIR-owned, twice winner of the Champagne Stakes Raging Halo, along with once raced locally Silverleo. Both horses are worthy of landing the first prize cheque but I believe that Silverleo will be a different proposition this time around. I think he could upstage his outstanding stablemate.
Mendez has been having a quiet season by his standard but on Monday he could prove to be in another class, once again. He attacks this event with the Gold Cup winner of 2010 Cactus Amour, which is also owned by the SIR Stables and Just Call Me Roger which he defeated last time out. That was the first victory for Cactus Amour in a very long time. Brian Harding gave him a peach of a ride in that event, producing him at the distance to catch and beat Just Call Me Roger. He would have come on for his first turf run and he will go very close once again under Daniel Centeno. Just Call Me Roger lost nothing in defeat and Ricky Jadoo gave him a peach of a ride. If he is allowed to dictate terms from the front he could prove difficult to peg back. However, I will go for the Mendez pair ahead of the O’Brien duo.