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Headline News not good at all

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The horse racing community was rocked by the reports that the country’s best racehorse, Headline News, suffered a potentially career-ending injury two Sundays ago. While the reports would be especially disappointing for the connections of the colt, Ruthven Smith and his family, the sport is much the poorer for the loss of this handsome and extremely talented racehorse. The official formlines for this colt’s career would read 12141211111. As impressive as these form lines are, they still grossly under-represent the talent that this colt possessed. Headline News was on his way to becoming one of the best creoles ever seen in T&T. His first second occurred upon his return to racing after nearly one year on the sidelines. He was pitched in, at what was probably the deep end, although that was not completely recognised at the time. His first start back was over 1,200 metres on atrocious track conditions and his main market rival was Perfect Day. 

That rival won the race before going on to run away with the 2013 Oaks Stakes (Group 1). A perfectly respectable performance given the long lay off, the track conditions and the distance that was likely on the short side. The second occasion on which this colt was beaten was in the Trinidad Derby. He finished fourth, after racing prominently in the early stages.The colt dropped back as if beaten at the 600 metres marker only to re-rally strongly in the straight and be beaten narrowly into fourth. Headline News’ performance in that race bore all of the hallmarks of an inexperienced runner, more than a lack of ability. The winner, Bigman in Town, would find that out on many occasions subsequently. The only other occasion on which Headline News was defeated was in the Caribbean Champion Stakes, going down by a shorthead to Bigman in Town. 

That took the score between these two horses to 2-0 in favour of Bigman, subsequent to which Headline News was to race unbeaten. On that occasion, the two colts hooked up at the top of the straight and after battling for the entire length of the straight, a Wilmer Galviz ridden Bigman just nosed out a Brian Boodramsingh ridden Headline News. Those were the defeats. Almost all of his wins were accomplished in emphatic fashion. On his debut as a two-year-old, the dogs were barking his name even before he graced the sand track. He proceeded to hack up by almost six lengths from War of Words, who would go on to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown and finish second in the Derby. After his return from injury, and his second place to Perfect Day, he made his first start over 1750 metres against an ordinary bunch that included Red Howler. 

He broke loose from the starting gate, run around the track for one full circuit, be checked over by the vet and cleared to race and then made all, defeating his field by almost six lengths again. 
This was clearly an extraordinary colt. After losing in the Derby, he returned for the off-turf three-year-old creole Memorial Classic and proceeded to win by any distance he liked. This was followed by his narrow defeat in the Caribbean Champion Stakes. Thereafter he went on his roll. A commanding victory over Bigman in Town in the Republic Bank Gold Cup was followed by a thrashing of his rivals this year in the Caribbean Turf Championship, the Starlight Stakes, the Champagne Stakes and the Carnival Messiah Stakes. He defeated Bigman in Town for a second time in the Starlight Stakes and some of the best imported turf stayers in the Champagne Stakes. One could not help but get the impression that this colt was still improving and the sky was the limit in terms of what he could have achieved.

Away from the track, the penchant for disobedience in T&T continues to have no limits. In spite of numerous signs on the local track advising that the Grand Stand is a no-smoking zone, many turfites continue to smoke unashamedly. This smoking takes place in the full glare of ARC officials and the protective services but no one is asked to desist. When you add to this that the dress code that was announced earlier this year continues to be flaunted by patrons; we really can never be surprised that our beloved country is in the state that it currently finds itself. Most people seem to believe that laws, rules and guidelines only apply if they do not inconvenience us. Once there is any inconvenience, it should be an elective. When jockeys are allowed to smoke other stuff and only be mildly reprimanded, we should be able to understand its genesis. Nothing is sacrosanct in this place. Hopefully the ARC will one day appreciate that each organisation can make a difference if it but only attempts to do the right thing that it has power to do. Until that day, we will continue to treat all rules/laws/guidelines as optional. :: AB


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