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Classic events ahead on Boxing Day
The day all race fans wait for every year is finally upon us again and Boxing Day does not only bring out the fans in droves. It is also the day that attracts far more first-timers to the track than any other during the year.
It is the most prestigious day on the local calendar and that has never changed, even after the most treasured event, the Trinidad Derby Stakes (GR.IR), was moved from the card over three decades ago.
In those days, Boxing Day races were contested at Queen’s Park Savannah, but the sport was centralised in 1994 and Thursday will be the 20th anniversary of action on the grand day at Santa Rosa Park, Arima.
Boxing Day card usually contains more classic events than any other and this will be the case again as there will be three on Thursday’s Republic Bank-sponsored programme. But in addition to the graded events, fans also have the conclusion of the exciting battle for champion jockey to look forward to as well as another opportunity to see their beloved Emile Ramsammy.
This country’s most successful jockey, a winner of over 2,500 races in his illustrious career, is back from his base at Woodbine Race Course, Canada, and will have a mount in half of the ten races.
Despite only coming back a couple times since he returned to Canada after campaigning here for the first three months of the year, Ramsammy is still third in the jockeys’ standings with 32 winners from just 106 mounts.
Wilmer Galviz seemed certain to be crowned champ for the second time when he led by six winners going into the penultimate day, but two-time defending champion Brian Boodramsingh produced one of the very best days in the saddle since centralisation on December 14 and is now two lengths behind the Venezuelan with 49 winners.
It would still be very difficult for the Venezuelan to be caught as he has outstanding chances in both races for the West Indian-bred juveniles and his mount may also be the favourite in the other feature event, the Republic Bank Gold Cup (GR.I).
After winning by almost 15 lengths on her December 14 debut, Soca Rhapsody could be the shortest-priced favourite of the day when she lines up in the Republic Mortgages St. Ann’s Stakes (GR.IRF) with Galviz up at 12:53PM.
Leslie Moore’s Jamaican bred will only have four challengers over 1,350 metres in the day’s fourth race, but the only other filly who deserves mention is Maranza, runner-up in both career starts.
The male version of the $150,000 contest, the Republic Online St James Stakes (GR.IRC&G) will be eighth race, and nine colts and geldings have been declared to face the starter at 3.30 pm, but the 1,350 metres event could turn into a two-horse race with the presence of Momentum and Dark Treasure, who both turned in breathtaking performances the only time they faced the starter.
Momentum totted up by 71/2 lengths over 1,300 metres in the Nursery Stakes on November 30 and Dark Treasure coasted home by 11 lengths the following Saturday in the 1,200 metres Stud Farm Association’s Breeders Stakes.
What adds to the intrigue of the clash is that Galviz will partner Dark Treasure, while Boodramsingh has the leg up on Momentum.
Also included are fellow winners Eye See You and Country Boy, who soared to a 12-length triumph in the Futurity Stakes in early October, but broke sluggishly and beat just one horse when he returned in the “Nursery” almost two months later.
The $500,000 Republic Bank Gold Cup (GR.I), the joint richest and the most prestigious open staying race on the local calendar, will follow right after.
It is certainly the biggest field for the 2,000 metres contest in many years as 16 top class horses have been declared to face the starter at 4.15 pm.
Champion Owner Shivam Maharaj, who will have United States-based Puerto Rican star Orlando Bocachica riding for him on the big day, is being represented by three of them, but their chances were dealt a serious blow during the draw for post positions.
Galveston would not only have to overcome the No 1 draw, he will be tackling the top class horses for the very first time with top weight of 56 kilos, and the Independence Cup (GR.I) winner has taken a backward step at the worse time as, after winning five of his first six races, he was beaten by over ten lengths into third last time out in the Caribbean Champion Stakes (GR.IR) a month ago.
Stable companion Gabby’s Gold won the President’s Cup (GR.II) last time out, but it has been almost five months since that Emancipation Day (August 1) 900-metre contest and the American-bred four-year-old will have to come out of the No 15 gate.
Woden, Maharaj’s other runner, is drawn alongside in the 14th gate and he is also returning from a break of over two months to face the top-class horses for the very first time. However this American-bred three-year-old has an imposing record over two turns, as before his runner-up effort last time he was unbeaten from four starts over 1,750 metres.
Derick Mosca will actually be represented by almost a third of the field, as in addition to Maharaj’s trio he will saddle American bred three-year-old Slewjero, in his first race over two turns, and last year’s NGC CNG Trinidad Derby Stakes (GR.IR) winner FREE PASSAGE, a very disappointing sixth of seven last time out in the Champion Stakes (GR.IR).
Many fans believe the battle for the $300,000 winners’ cheque will be between lightly weighted John O’Brien trained three-year-old “creoles” BIGMAN IN TOWN and HEADLINE NEWS, ridden by Galviz and Boodramsingh, respectively.
After the two fought out a rousing stretch duel in the Caribbean Champion Stakes (GR.IR) over 1,800 metres last time out, odds-on favourite ‘BIGMAN’ held on to prevail by a head.
They carried level weights, but the rapidly improving HEADLINE NEWS could turn the tables as he was allotted 48 kilos, two less than his conqueror.
BIGMAN IN TOWN, who had previously won the NGC CNG Trinidad Derby (GR.IR) and the Caribbean Sprint Championship (GR.IIIR), is unbeaten from four starts since coming across from Jamaica in the middle of the year and is the leading Horse-Of-The-Year contender.
President’s Cup (GR.II) runner-up GOLDEN DIXIELAND will relish the maximum trip and could also be a contender with Ramsammy in the saddle.
The field also includes Independence Cup (GR.I) runner-up NOMINEE, who won the Champagne Stakes (GR.I) on the turf in April, the in-from RED LACE and talented TORO ROSSO, but they are both stepping up in class and are expected to find the going tough at the weights.
And let’s not forget surprise entry SIGNAL ALERT, runner-up in the Stewards Cup (GR.1) in the last two years after winning the 1,200 metres contest in 2011.
The American bred five-year-old has earned over $800,000 from 20 career starts, but this will be the first time that he will be facing the starter over further than 1,350 metres.
Post time for the 43RD and final round of the Arima Race Club’s is 11:00AM when YOUARESOBAD, the fourth placed finisher in the Stewards Cup (GR.I) three weeks ago, last year’s NLCB Easter Guineas winner UNQUESTIONABLE and STAR ENTERTAINER, who has impressively won two of his three career starts but has been out of action since May, are among seven 100-70 rated horses in Republic Corporate Tisp over 1,350 metres.
And in the sixth, GOLD RUSH, who won the 1,100 metres Chanticleer Classic (GR.II), and CHASE THE DRAGON, a runaway winner over 1,750 metres during the previous race day, will clash over 1,300 metres.
CARO’S LEGACY, coming back from an absence of over six months, and 2011 NLCB Easter Guineas (GR.IR) and Carib Brewery Midsummer Classic (GR.IR) winner TOUCH D ROAD, who has not raced in over 16 months, are also among the nine 70-55 horses in the Republic Visa Travel Money at 2:11PM.
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