The reports that start of the Classic season may have to be delayed from August 1 came as no surprise to the die-hard followers of the Sport of Kings.
The attempts to maintain a Classic diary that culminates with the Derby being run on its traditional date of September 24 (Republic Day) illustrates the naivete of those responsible for the sport in Trinidad and Tobago.
While the delay is not confirmed, it should never really come to this. To advocate that the dates can be maintained if additional support is received from the government of T&T is tantamount to admitting defeat and rescheduling the date. Support from a government which is under fire for its commitment to the hosting of the CPL (Caribbean Premier League) in August is highly unlikely nor should it be necessary.
All other countries in which the sport of horse racing has resumed have rescheduled their classic races in the joint recognition that the added time is required for their horses to be ready and that during that time, some changes may occur which would increase the fortunes of the sport. The Arima Race Club (ARC) was flying in the face of that reality. Also flying in the face of that reality was the Club insistence on a nomination system for its major races.
Again, many countries have abandoned such an approach, treating these major races in much the same way as other races on the programme, simply permitting entry at the regular stage for the Classic races. The ARC instead, for the Guineas, sort to squeeze in at least two nomination stages for owners to pay money, money which is really being used to assist in the Club’s cash flow, more than anything else.
This is quite unfair to owners and other connections that continue to have no idea when they will be paid for any money won, but instead, receive numerous ridiculous excuses for promised payments not being kept. It is surely only love of the sport that is keeping it going at this time. Owners should refuse to continue to pay nomination fees.
July 15 is the fifth nomination stage for the Guineas even though the race is scheduled for August 1, and it is the second nomination stage for the Midsummer Classic, still scheduled for August 31 and there is sure to be at least two (maybe even three) more nomination stages, even though that date is a mere six weeks away.
Whatever the date on which the Guineas is held, the field for the event is unlikely to vary much from the list of horses for whom nomination fees were paid at the fourth stage. That field comprises eight locally-bred horses and six Jamaican-bred horses. Of the six Jamaican-bred horses, four are trained by Harold Chadee and one each by John O’Brien and Glenn Mendez.
Chadee’s quartet is all winners and includes the St James Stakes winner Airforce Won. This colt blotted his copybook terribly on his intended comeback when refusing to race. Supporters of this colt will, therefore, be taking an almighty chance that he has overcome whatever aversion afflicted him on that day.
The other three, American Traveller, Nuclear Fire and Spring Valley, have performed inconsistently throughout their career and it was a minor surprise with Nuclear Fire upset his stable companions in the mile trial run on the last racing day. Anything could really happen between them in the Guineas.
The other two Jamaican-bred are fillies with the Mendez filly, Spanish Eyes, displaying insufficient ability to suggest she should be in a race such as this while O’Brien’s filly, Sweet Caroline has been well respected in all of her starts to date but remains a maiden though she has shown ability.
John O’Brien dominates the locally-bred contenders with the two main contenders, Bella Riva and Wise Guy, both stabled with the champion trainer. Bella Riva stands heads and shoulders over her rivals being undefeated, the St Ann’s Winner and last year's Champion Juvenile. Her only Achilles’ heel being the speed displayed could betray stamina doubts.
Wise Guy was expected to be the one to take advantage of any stamina limitations in his stable companion but he was underwhelming in his comeback win though he could be expected to improve for that run. O’Brien’s other contender is Princess Stephani and while this filly is well-bred, she remains a maiden though displayed good improvement when runner-up in her last start, albeit well beaten.
The other locally-bred include two other winners in CP Jet and Red Casino who have both been soundly beaten since those wins and would have to improve significantly to be winning threats. The other nominees Leave Me Alone, Mighty Vegas and Red Knuckles have shown the same level of ability as Spanish Eyes and are unlikely to make an impact.
The Guineas is likely to revolve around Bella Riva, Wise Guy, Airforce Won, Nuclear Fire and American Traveller. On all known form, Bella Riva should spank this field but it is horse racing.
But as stated before, several persons have come to me and suggested that there are ulterior motives behind some of the decisions of the ARC. I though would wish to state that I do not believe that, I more believe it is a straight case of just doing what you are accustomed too.
Going forward, this year is probably best forgotten among the horse racing population given some of the above and a lot more still not known.