Trainer Glenn Mendez must be given the nod for the top training feat of last season when the Justyn Kanta Persad-owned Juice Man won th2 2019 Grade One Midsummer Classic over 1,900 metres at Santa Rosa Park, Arima on August 1 to pocket the $96,150 first prize cheque.
Juice Man was just an average performer in Jamaica before he came to T&T but since he joined the Mendez barn, he has been a revelation, climaxing with his Derby success which was his fourth straight victory on the trot.
Mendez has shown to all and sundry that he is one of the best trainers this country has ever seen and his training feat with Juice Man exemplifies his outstanding ability.
The training feat has more substance because the three-year-old Jamaican bred thoroughbred had his first race locally on July 19 when he beat Trovatore in a Handicap for horses rated 60-45 over a distance of 1,750 metres.
Juice Man remained unbeaten in his career in T&T after his impressive 1 3/4 lengths victory over the John O'Brien-trained pair of Apocalypse and Making Headlines in the Midsummer Classic and he capped off the "Triple Crown" with a hard-fought half-length success over Apocalypse in the Derby.
Mendez, who has landed his fifth success in the Blue Riband event, has joined the elite group of trainers who have won the prestigious event on five occasions like O'Brien, and the legendary Eric 'Colt' Durant.
Juice Man was a well-backed favourite at 3-5 to deliver and he had to repel the challenge of Apocalypse and Brian Boodramsing not once but twice. Juice Man ran the fastest time for the trip 2:05.15 since Top Of The Class in 2003.
Mendez has won back-to-back Derby's win with Cape Canaveral in 2018 and Juice Man in 2019.
Mendez was looking to land the Caribbean Champion Stakes later in the season but as beaten in a close race by O'Brien's relay team which was anchored by Apocalypse. Juice Man then travelled to America to contest the Clasico Del Caribe in December and ran with credit for his connection despite being taken wide by his rider.
In 2018, the "Magical Mendez" showed his prowess and again this year, he was back in winner's row in the Derby.
When asked about his performance in the Derby Mendez said, "This horse has done everything we have asked of him. I thought he ran a bit too fast in his last gallop before the event and we all hope that he would recover and win this race. One thing of note is that he ran the fastest time since Top Of The Class and that takes some doing.
"He had everything thrown at him and Apocalypse pushed him to the limit but he responded to win. Ricky Jadoo rode a great race, he rode to the plan and we were successful.
"We all had a scare when Apocalypse came to challenge but Juice Man would not be denied and stayed on strongly to the end. I want to thank the owner, the staff of the stable and Ricky for a wonderful job.
"I remember in 2010 when Mendez had the top training feat when he produced the SIR-owned, Cactus Amour to beat 'Horse of The Year' 2009, Bruceontheloose, not once or twice but on three occasions in 2010. That, indeed, is a feat as no other thoroughbred had beaten Bruceontheloose in T&T.
Mendez, who is the most enviable trainer in the country having won the “Triple Crown” on two occasions, was confident of a big run from Juice Man and with the services of champion jockey Ricky Jadoo, Juice Man obliged.
Mendez will stand out as the leading trainer as he has saddled two "Triple Crown" winners in Carnival Messiah (1991) and Top of The Class (2003).
Well done, Mendez.