BEIJING—For the world’s best sprinters, passing the baton in the 4x400 relay is about as easy as rolling out of bed in the morning.
Picking a winner in that race used to be easy, too.
The Triple Crown series will begin on Monday when the Arima Race Club (ARC) stages one of the biggest cards in the two decades of centralisation at Santa Rosa Park, Arima.
A grand total of 138 horses were declared and there will be 11 races on the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) sponsored Easter programme.
The NLCB Champagne Stakes and the NLCB Easter Guineas, two of the most prestigious races on the calendar, will be in the spotlight and jockeys Patrick Husbands and Emile Ramsammy will be here from their base in Canada.
Ramsammy, this country’s most successful jockey who has ridden over 2,500 career winners, will be back for the big day after only returning to Woodbine Race Course two weeks earlier.
Husbands, one of the most successful jockeys in the last decade at Woodbine, spent the off-season in his native Barbados and last month rode the winner of their most prestigious race, the Sandy Lane Gold Cup.
The NLCB Easter Guineas begins the most prestigious series in local racing and the winner of this race will also have to prevail in the Carib Brewery Midsummer Classic on Indian Arrival Day, May 30 and the NGC CNG Trinidad Derby Stakes on Republic Day, September 24, to become the first Triple Crown winner since TOP OF THE CLASS in 2003.
With prize-money of $315,000, the Guineas is the fifth richest race of the season. The NGC CNG Trinidad Derby; the Toyota Trinidad & Tobago Breeders Classic, which is contested on Emancipation Day August 1, and the Boxing Day, December 26, Republic Bank Gold Cup, each offer $500,000, $50,000 more than the Midsummer.
This year’s Guineas has been robbed of some interest as fans will not get the opportunity to witness the long awaited first meeting between last year’s champion juveniles SOCA RHAPSODY and MOMENTUM, unbeaten from three and four starts, respectively.
Last year’s St Ann’s Stakes heroine SOCA RHAPSODY returned from a three months break to win the Ibis Stakes, but mucus was discovered in her lungs after the March 22 victory and owner Lester Moore has decided to keep her indoors.
MOMENTUM would have probably been the overwhelming favourite anyway, but he is among five in the field of eight West Indian bred three-year-olds who will be attempting two turns for the first time.
Dr. Rupert Indar Jr’s Jamaican bred colt has won his four races by a combined margin of over 24 lengths and the consensus is that if the Republic Online St. James Stakes and Flamingo Stakes hero stays the trip he will romp home with the $189,000 winners’ cheque.
Of course, local fans are yet to see SPITFIRE, who only recently came over his native Jamaica. This chestnut gelding crushed a field by 18 lengths in a 1,700 metres encounter in February.
Husbands will be aboard SPITFIRE and owner Baskaran Bassawh, who brought down BIGMAN IN TOWN to win the Derby last year, is quietly confident.
Glenn Mendez, who trained both Triple Crown winners; CARNIVAL MESSIAH in 2001 and TOP OF THE CLASS, at Santa Rosa Park, will have the services of Ramsammy for his other charge, DARK TREASURE.
After cruising home on career debut by 11 lengths in early December, Dhanpaul Sookoo’s son of Storms Past finished a very disappointing 13 lengths behind MOMENTUM in fourth in the Republic Bank Online St. James Stakes on Boxing Day, but DARK TREASURE came back three months later and finished an eye catching second to WING COMMANDER in a 1,750 metres contest for 55-40 rated horses last time out.
So he not only has experience over two turns, he proved that he could stay and has to be a danger to MOMENTUM and SPITFIRE.
COUNTRY BOY was involved in that same race as DARK TREASURE on March 29, but there were question marks about his stamina going in and last year’s Futurity Stakes winner ended up trailing the ten horse field, almost 30 lengths behind the winner.
Of the others, HIGH OCTANE looks the only one who could be a contender for the top spot.
After impressively winning the Royal Colours Classic in the first start of his career on February 22, this son of Charismatic Cat was beaten by over seven lengths into second by MOMENTUM exactly a month later over 1,350 metres in the “Flamingo”.
The Easter Guineas (GR.IR) is 450 metres further and HIGH OCTANE, who has given the impression that he will stay, may be better suited to the trip than his John O’Brien trained stable companion.
Still he may not be able to turn the tables as, even if MOMENTUM does not stay, he has shown so much class that he may still be able to get the job done.
The champion trainer is also being represented by the Bassawh owned JUSTCALLMEBAS in the day’s penultimate event.
O’Brien is also expected to be in the spotlight in the Champagne Stakes as he saddles the two expected favourites as well as two of the others in the field of seven top class horses.
HEADLINE NEWS and BIGMAN IN TOWN, who have occupied the top two positions in their last three clashes, will square off again and there is a very good chance that they will finish one-two again.
After going down by a half a length in the Caribbean Champion Stakes at the end of November, HEADLINE NEWS got his revenge on Boxing Day in the Republic Bank Gold Cup and then trounced BIGMAN IN TOWN by over three lengths in the Starlight Stakes at the end of last month.
But last year’s Horse-Of-The-Year will have a very good opportunity for revenge as he will be as many as four kilos better off at the weights for their first turf showdown after they raced at level weights last time out.
HEADLINE NEWS, who has never given the Jamaican bred chestnut weight before, will be attempting to complete a beaver-trick of victories. The Ruthven Smith bred and owned chestnut has only raced once on the grass, but he was really impressive in winning the Caribbean Turf Championship at the end of January.
BIGMAN IN TOWN also proved that he is capable on the lawn, with a third placed effort in the Eric “Colt” Durant Memorial (GR.II) in the middle of February.
KIDZ RO, who just edged the son of Cowtown Cat for second in that $150,000 contest, is also in this field and this American bred four-year-old has to be a contender with Ramsammy in the saddle.
Rounding out O’Brien’s quartet is vastly improved CHASE THE DRAGON, who is stepping up in class but he did upset KIDZ RO last time for his second straight victory and was second in the Turf Championship.Versatile top class mare SACRED TRUST has to be respected in the day’s sixth event at 2:12PM along with 1,100 metres track record holder FLY JUNIOR, who has won six of 11 on the turf.
STAR ENTERTAINER, a winner of four of his six career starts, and CORONEO, who has won his two races by a combined 19 lengths, will clash at 12:55PM in the fourth, a 1,200 metres event for 100-70 rated horses.
Post time is 11 am.
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