The horseracing scene in T&T heats up as we get closer and closer to Republic Day on September 24th, 2019. Between now and then, the Breeders Classic for T&T's bred three-year-olds will be staged and that will probably represent the final warm-up opportunity for the locally bred Derby aspirants.
While the Triple Crown trail has been dominated by Jamaican bred horses to date, the fact that we have had different winners of the first two legs (Regal Intension and Juice Man) and the latter was only rated in the mid 60s when successful in the Midsummer Classic must give some hope to all horses as we enter into the Classic homestretch.
The Breeders Classic on August 31st represents the prime opportunity for Making Headlines, a son of Headline News, to restate his claim for classic glory.
Before the Guineas, this colt was expected to take the challenge to the Jamaican bred horses but he inexplicably went off the boil and finished a very disappointing fifth of the six runners. Horses are not machines, however, and after a short freshening opportunity, he returned in the Midsummer Classic to run a much more promising third behind two Jamaican colts with the Guineas winner behind him in fourth.
In the expectation that whatever ailed him is now behind him, this colt can be expected to be the overwhelming favourite to cement his claims for the Derby in the Breeders Classic itself.
The main challengers to Making Headlines in the Breeders Classic are likely to be his stable companions Early Bird and News Flash as well as two of the other winners in the field in La Reine and Signal Note.
These five, along with Cool Cat and Unruly Queen are the only winners in the field of 13, however, Cool Cat is a turf runner, and Unruly Queen, a maiden winner from thirteen starts. The main challenger to Making Headlines will be Early Bird, the highest-rated three-year-old in the country but a gelding who has shown all of his best form at up to 1350 metres and whose only race at a distance in excess of 1350 metres was in the 1600 metres Chief Commander Classic on the turf in which he was well held by horses rated considerably lower.
That race was on the turf, and if Early Bird’s speed can be harnessed over the 1800 metres distance, he could yet emerge as a Derby contender. This gelding by Gold Market out of Rosalinda is not bred to stay but his class may get him through.
Trainer John O’Brien will be aware that he may surprise a few with Early Bird, which it has been stated is going well and doing some behind the scenes good work ahead of the race at the end of August.
News Flash is another gelding by Headline News who is a maiden winner from his three starts. He has not raced over further than 1350 metres but has given the impression that he could stay such a distance under the right conditions. Like most of the horses racing in this country, he is not 100% sound but his trainer is adept at having his contenders primed for their biggest occasions.
The main contenders not trained by John O’Brien are Signal Note and La Reine. Signal Note, trained by Glenn Mendez, has won his last three starts but has not raced beyond 1350 meters. As a son of Signal Note and Savoy Special, this colt is not bred to stay and like all of the contenders, other than Making Headlines, it is a shot in the dark by connections. Signal Note has however proven to be an interesting advertisement for his sire Signal Alert since the dam, Savoy Special, had not previously produced any runners of note. This colt’s forte is speed though he will no doubt have company in Early Bird and the respective ratings of those two runners are illustrative of the gap between them. La Reine is also a maiden winner but this filly was third in the Oaks though that was a particularly weak renewal with the winner She’s So Spectacula subsequently being retired after a career-ending injury in the Midsummer Classic and the runner up, Mon Cheri, succumbing right after the Oaks itself.
The Breeders Classic may end up as two races with Making Headlines in a class of his own and the other contenders competing for second place. Horses are not machines and anything is possible, which is why the races are usually run.
The other feature race on August 31st is the Independence Cup over 1800 metres on the turf. This is a very interesting race since it could present the first occasion in which the top horse in the country, General JN, competes on turf against horses he has beaten regularly on the dirt. If General JN handles the turf, he should be able to win comfortably. Of the other runners, there are several proven turf runners in Stockyard, Ravishing, Trini Aviator, Root of Jesse and Howsweetitis. Of these, Stockyard could prove the biggest threat to the General on the turf though the speed of Ravishing and Trini Aviator will make the event a fascinating one. In the clash of the speedsters, Stockyard and Howsweetitis could be the two to benefit the most.