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Cape Canaveral was just brilliant

Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Andre Baptiste

This year's Trinidad Derby was contested on Republic Day (September 24) and although there was one of the smallest fields in almost a century, race fans were treated to a tremendous spectacle.

The racing acumen of Merlin Samlalsingh, the training genius of Glenn Mendez and the hard work of Ricky Jadoo combined with the pure brilliance of the lightly raced, Cape Canaveral, to foil the triple crown aspirations of General JN.

While taking nothing away from the brilliance of Cape Canaveral, there is the slight suspicion that General JN was not quite at his best and while this may be true, there must be some doubt as to whether even at-his-best, General JN would have been able to defeat racing's new star.

The future rivalry between these two creoles is sure to light up the remainder of the season.

Also on the track, Princess Suri added her name to the illustrious honour roll for the Diamond Stakes. While connections exuded confidence after the race, that they always thought she had matters under control, very few turfites would have shared that confidence for most of the race.

The filly was last early and was always under the pump of her rider Ronald Ali and it is to her credit and Ali’s endeavour and patience that she eventually wore down the enterprisingly ridden Rocket Wheels. A better stayer, Princess Suri will be the horse to beat in the top class staying events at the end of the season. For the second (or third) race in succession, the great Bigman In Town looked a shadow of his former self in trailing home, a long last. Hopefully, his affable and caring owner will now spare his colt the ignominy of further embarrassment which can only serve to tarnish the lustre of the Bigman's reputation.

A happy retirement home is what this horse now so richly deserves. Another significant development was the decision by the handicappers to raise the Derby winner by 30 points from 60 to 90. One handicapper explained that only after the animal had contested a handicap would we truly know if this move was excessive.

What we can say, is that if past experience is anything to go by, most of the highly rated three-year-olds tend to struggle when contesting the handicap events in their four-year-old season. Last year, the Derby top four finishers were Leading Lady, Hello, Battle Cry and Valorous and they have all struggled this year.

In 2016, the Derby top four finishers were Academy Award, King Arthur, Peace and Glory and Black Onyx and they also struggled in 2017. A factor not adequately considered is the significant weight for age and West Indian bred allowance that the classic crop benefit from during their three-year-old season. In spite of this experience, the handicappers seem locked into their current bemusing and archaic approach.

Two or three days after what must have been the most successful racing day of this year's calendar, it was reported by several that horsemen arrived at the Arima Race Club early one morning to find many buildings on the premises sealed and the security guards absent.

It seems for reasons (still to be confirmed), all of the security had been removed overnight. The risk on all of the animals and individuals who reside at the track was immeasurable. There could be no valid excuse for the overnight removal of personnel.

If this approach was signalled beforehand to the management of the facility and no mitigating action was taken, then the management committee has some serious explaining to do to all horsemen. The bottom line is that it was widely reported that there was no security presence in the morning and key buildings were locked tight including the tack room which contained the personal equipment of some jockeys. This represented an ignominious end to a glittering week and indicates that racing still has a long way to go before it can really be placed on a sustainable footing.

The aforementioned Derby-winning owner Merlin Samlalsingh is on record as stating that racing should be moved to the Caroni Complex if it is to have any chance of long-term survival. While this may be necessary, one is still left to wonder whether it will be sufficient to turn around the fortunes of the sport.

A key challenge remains the lack of sponsorship and the question as to why must continue to haunt the leadership of the Club. There are many influential members of society involved in the sport but few seem willing to support the Club through sponsorship. The answer to that question may prove just as important to the sport's long-term survival as its location.


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