September 24 (Republic Day) will feature the running of the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Guineas, and the President’s Cup, two races that would traditionally bring the crowds out to Santa Rosa Park, Arima, on a day that would traditionally have the crowds descending on the track for the running of the Trinidad Derby.
There is nothing traditional about 2020, however, and on this day, there will be no crowd present and the Derby will take place on another day in the racing calendar. The pursuit of public safety and the need to control a microbe that has wreaked havoc on the world deservedly taking precedence.
Nevertheless, through the medium of technology, all will be able to enjoy the day from the comfort of their homes and hopefully with more and more people signing up for the Arima Race Club’s Mbet system, also wager successfully on two intriguing events. We will review both of those feature events today.
It should also be mentioned that the Republic Day card is also expected to feature the first race for the juveniles this year and it can only be hoped that the race is able to attract a reasonable amount of entries.
Nine horses have paid their nominations for the President’s Cup and all of the best horses in the country are entered for the 1,900 metres event on the main track. The nine horses comprise the North American-bred duo of Nuclear Power and Thisonesforron; the Jamaican-bred quintet of General JN, Juice Man, Apocalypse, Master of War and Regal Intension; and the locally-bred duo of Affirmative and Making Headlines.
It will probably be folly to rule out any of the nonet but the least likely winner would be Regal Intension. This Jamaican-bred colt has not really progressed since his win in the 2019 Easter Guineas and although winning his first race since when surprisingly getting the better of Making Headlines earlier this season, he has been well behind that Ruthven Smith-owned runner in all of their other starts. It is likely to be the same thing this year.
The other runner for whom it is hard to generate real enthusiasm is the grandfather of the party, Thisonesforron. This Canadian-bred runner has been a real star on the local scene over the years but he is getting quite long in the tooth now and it has been some time since we have seen a truly top class performance from this colt.
His trainer can work miracles but it would need something akin to turning water into wine for this one to be successful. Much the same can actually be said about Affirmative, who is blessed with tremendous speed but also plagued with incessant foot troubles. His presence in the race seems more to act as a rabbit for his more likely stable companions Master of War and Nuclear Power and he can probably also be safely ignored. The other six runners all have a chance on their best form.
Apocalypse and Making Headlines got the better of Juiceman in the Independence Cup and were the race to play out similarly, that is, General JN carelessly sacrificing his otherwise excellent chance of winning by contesting a suicidal pace with the Glenn Mendez 2019 "Horse of the Year", then a similar outcome could be possible between the three.
Both the General and the Juiceman are likely to be much the wiser on this occasion. Master of War and Nuclear Power can beat all four of them on their best form but they have both had their issues this year and it remains to be seen if they will be at their best on the day.
As usual, the race will come down to jockey tactics and of the six, Making Headlines, if he can avoid laying as far back in these races as he tends to do through racing lazily in the early stages could possibly surprise the entire lot of them. It will be an excellent race to witness.
Thirteen (13) runners have stood their ground for the Guineas but most of them can be safely dismissed as having little chance of winning. Quite frankly, this includes the Harold Chadee quintet of Airforce Won, American Traveller, Goldon D’Or, Nuclear Fire and Spring Valley.
None of these five has shown anything in 2020 that suggests they should go close in a race such as this. We can also safely ignore Apache (very disappointing since his debut win), CP Jet and Red Casino (shock winners who have both shown nothing since or before their wins) and Spanish Eyes (a multi raced maiden for whom trainer Glenn Mendez must be following strange instructions from the owner to keep this one in the race – maybe he is looking for a Pride N Glory moment (unlikely)).
It is also difficult to muster a lot of enthusiasm for Princess Steffani as a winner of this event though she is a very nicely bred sister to Making Headlines. She has not shown the stamina of her brother as yet but has won her last two starts nicely. This leaves just three leading players in the unbeaten Bella Riva, Wise Guy who had his winning streak ended in his final prep and the once raced maiden winner, Mayaluga.
Of the three, the unknown is really the last named Shivam Maharaj-owned daughter of that very good racing mare, Market Rally. The dam is best known for her narrow upset victory over Derby third Glorious Country in the 2014 Breeders Classic, showing that her stamina was pretty good. Bella Riva has not been entirely convincing in her 2020 wins regarding her reserves of stamina and so she could be vulnerable if one of the other two proves to have stronger reserves. Bella’s class might still see her through, however. Another excellent race is likely.
A good card has been scheduled for Republic Day and hopefully, a good betting turnover proves to be the reward for a sport much in need of a boost and for that to happen all roads and efforts have to be made to ensure access to Mbet reliability, that must be the priority over the next few days leading to Republic Day.