The 2022 racing season will conclude on December 26 but there is only one other racing day beforehand on December 3.
Those two racing days, day 18 and day 19 will feature the Stewards Cup and Gold Cup respectively along, so far, with the usual classic races for the two-year-olds. Bearing in mind that we have not had any two-year-old races to date, the status of those events has surely been diminished and it may make more sense for those races to be postponed.
Whatever decision is taken in that respect, the Stewards Cup and Gold Cup will, as usual, attract some attention and the appeal of both races to racing connections remain undiminished.
On December 3, the Stewards Cup will be contested and there are 13 West Indian-bred horses still in contention after the fifth nomination stage. Except for Making Headlines and General JN, none of the other contenders are rated in excess of 90 and that alone is a reflection of how this event has suffered over the years but there will still be a winner.
Both of those champions of the past are rated 120, a full 30 points at least over their rivals in this event, which would ordinarily translate into a 15kg weight difference. This was equally true when both horses made their return on the track on Day 17 after an extended absence and though both were beaten by Patta Patta, who raced from outside of the handicap, the strong finishing performance of Making Headlines suggest that he will be the one to beat in the Stewards Cup, notwithstanding the shorter distance.
In that event, which was contested over 1,350 metres, Patta Patta was able to just hold on from the usually slow burning Making Headlines at the end while General JN dropped out of the event after racing prominently for the first 800m. While both horses should be much fitter for that race, the General has much more to prove before he can be backed with confidence. He is in the right hands, however, to improve dramatically from that performance.
Once Making Headlines can be motivated to make his move a bit earlier, he should reverse placings with Patta Patta. One area of concern from that event was the relatively slow time compared to the 60 and under handicap that was contested over the same distance, one race later.
There was a full two-second differential between those races, which conservatively translates into 10 lengths. The winner of that event, Crown Prince, is also entered in the Stewards Cup, along with his derby conqueror, Soca Symphony.
Increasingly, Crown Prince has given the impression that staying is not his forte and this allowed Soca Symphony to easier have his measure in the last two legs of the Triple Crown series.
Over the shorter distance, Crown Prince could prove the main obstacle for his much older stable companion. Crown Prince has not been worse than second in his eight career starts and depending on the amount of overweight that he has to carry, he could be the one that they all have to beat on the third. All the other runners in the event have no pretensions of being Grade 1 winners with the exception of Soca Symphony but it isn’t clear that she will be as effective over this shorter distance. This race might well prove to be a very good warm-up race for her effort to bag the Derby – Gold Cup double.
While a couple of turf races have been slated to be contested on December 3, weather conditions suggest that these races are likely to be taken off the turf. December 3 also has the SFA Breeders Stakes on its schedule and this could be an interesting event if there are enough two-year-olds to contest on the day. Hopefully, that will happen since two-year-old races always generate some degree of interest among turfites. Hopefully, a good card of races is able to be planned.