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Derby Day projections
The Trinidad Derby will be run off on Monday and the anticipation among the racing public that we will witness a fourth Triple Crown winner since the centralization of racing is expected to bring out a massive crowd to Santa Rosa Park in Arima.
While a large field has been declared for the event, realistic ambitions of victory could really only reside with the connections of three of the contenders with all of the remainder either hopeful of a good showing from their animals or something unfortunate happening to one of the favourites.
The reality, of course, is that when it comes to horses racing since they are not machines, anything can and does happen. One only has to look at what happened over the weekend to the champion three-year-old filly in Europe, Alpha Centauri, to understand that the adage of never being afraid of one horse remains as true today as ever.
That truth notwithstanding, I think most impartial turfites love to see the best horses shine through and in this vein, there can be little denying that the three best horses on show in the Trinidad Derby will be General JN, Affirmative and Cape Canaveral.
General JN has been almost as flawless as his half-brother Momentum was, in his Triple Crown year. But for a defeat on his debut when he was aggressively campaigned against imported horses, this colt has destroyed his rivals in all of his races since then.
His victories in the first two legs of the Triple Crown – the Guineas and the Midsummer Classic - were impressive and his performance in his Derby prep when slamming two classy rivals in Nuclear Power and Caesar Country suggest that he is at his very best.
It is very questionable whether any of his rivals could have performed in a similar manner against those two rivals. The one question mark hanging over his head is whether the 2,000 metres will find him out, but he handled the 1,900m of the Classic easily enough and his tactical speed should make it nearly impossible for his rivals to get him off the bridle in the early stages.
Affirmative, a locally bred colt, has improved beyond recognition in this is his first season of racing. His rate of improvement is what must be fueling the dreams of his connections and rightly so.
This colt did not contest the Guineas and was third in the Midsummer Classic but his improvement since then has been at a rate of knots. He idled when winning the Breeders Stakes but was absolutely phenomenal when winning his Derby prep by over 10 lengths without coming off the bridle.
His advantage will be that he will have the services of one of the best riders to have graced the local track in Wilmer Galviz and he has a stable companion, Master of War, who connections will no doubt use to trouble the favourite in the early stages. A success for Affirmative will be a great fillip for the local breeding industry but so will be a very honourable defeat.
Cape Canaveral burst onto the scene with two victories by a combined margin of over 20 lengths and he is the only unbeaten runner in the event. A confirmed front-runner, the battle for the early lead is sure to have a say on the outcome of the event. Connections will no doubt not want their colt to get into a speed duel which could fry his chance and that of the others duelers.
Of greater concern to connections, however, must be that the colt missed his Derby prep and so will be going into the Derby off the back of an interrupted campaign and without a run since August 1. His trainer can ready them off an extended absence so there must remain hope for his connections who are not strangers to Derby success.
Of the other runners, Streaking Far appeals as an out and out stayer but this filly has been well held by the colts in all of her races against them. She will be plugging on when others have cried enough however and so her connections must also harbour dreams of a strong run from their locally bred filly.
Many of the other runners cannot seriously be considered for win purposes but the Derby has historically thrown up its fair share of long-shot runners who outrun their odds. Among those who have shown some ability and could run into a place at long odds are Road Rage, River Secret, Towering and Warmonger. The gap, however, between these runners and the leading contenders on ratings and proven form remains significant but strange things can happen in a Derby.
The second feature on Derby Day is the Diamond Stakes in which two-time defending champion Whisper Light will be looking to make it a hat-trick of victories in this event. His preparation for this race has not been as smooth as in prior years and he will be making his first start since July 14.
He has performed well following a layoff before but he will have his work cut out for him on this occasion against the likes of the improving Princess Suri, Pauseforacoors, Nuclear Power and Stockyard. Princess Suri is the most likely winner based on her strong form over distances 1,200m and over but both Pauseforacoors, who may be best at distances up to 1,200m and Stockyard, who has shown his best form on a wet-fast/sloppy track could be dangerous if they get their conditions.
Nuclear Power will have to improve on what she has shown in her last two starts but that is not impossible. The returning Bigman in Town will have to bounce back to his best but he has looked a shadow of himself in his last two starts.
Of the others, Rocket Wheels and Valorous have shown good form against lower company or with lighter weights and will both have to improve significantly to be competitive with these. A very competitive race is in store but with their weight for age allowance, the imported three-year-olds are likely to be too strong for their elders.
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