‘Bigman’ to thwart Triple Crown bid
...as Castellano, Maragh arrive
THE ROAD to Triple Crown glory is rarely travelled. It takes a good performance to get the green light, and another good one to continue. Today War of Words, a bay, three-year-old Jamaica-bred gelding is on course to complete that journey on the Santa Rosa Park dirt course.
It should take him approximately two minutes and seven seconds to complete this journey that started on April 1, with victory in the 1,800-metre NLCB Easter Guineas, and continued with success in the 1,900-metre Carib Brewery Midsummer Classic on May 31.
Today could be the crowning moment for owner Anthony Wight’s runner, as the journey ends with the 83rd renewal of the 2,000-metre NGC CNG Trinidad Derby Stakes.
Victory in the third leg of the Triple Crown series will earn War of Words a place in history alongside Triple Crown winners Carnival Messiah (2001) and Top Of The Class (2003) who have achieved the feat since centralisation in 1994. The industry, which is experiencing a rough period, needs a Triple Crown winner to give it the needed But a “Bigman” may stop him.
The John O’Brien-trained, War of Words, a son of War Marshall/Comegowithme comes up against 11 other runners in the race. He is the leading three-year-old, having beaten stablemate Prince Zeshan, last year’s champion two-year-old into third in the Easter Guineas, and into second in the Midsummer Classic. However, there was a scare for the Triple Crown contender in the Midsummer Classic inside the final 400 metres of the second jewel when Prince Zeshan looked the big danger nearing the hometurn. He came with a wet sail to challenge War Of Words entering the homestretch, but “ducked” towards the rails, resulting in jockey Nobel Abrego having to snatch him up. That action appeared to have caused him the race, as he went down by 1 3/4 lengths.
Today, Prince Zeshan is reported by trainer O’Brien to be smooth as oil and could be the spoiler, especially with Jamaican born rider Rajiv Maragh flying in from the USA to partner the Jamaica-bred colt.
After that Midsummer Classic run, he showed marked improvement in his next two starts, winning one, and then going down by a head to importation Woden in a fast time of 1:51. With Maragh (R) aboard, he has to be feared.
This race could be a Caribbean fest as the Barbadians are represented by Nekitta, who lost her Triple Crown bid when beaten in her country’s Derby. And while, stablemate Khartoum is not as talented as the filly, he gets an easy holiday pass.
The other big threat to War of Words is fellow Jamaica-bred Bigman In Town. The handsome-looking Gary Subratie-trained chestnut colt failed to live up to the high expectations in Jamaica, suffering a beaver-trick of defeats as the short-priced favourite. But despite those failures, he and stablemate Perfect Day are the only two runners in the Derby to compete over today’s 2,000-metre trip. Bigman’s standout performance has to be his second-placed finish to Uncle Taf in his Derby prep, the 2,000-metre Governor’s Cup in a time of 2:10 at Caymanas Park.
While that time is considered slow, the Caymanas Park track is “heavier” than Santa Rosa Park’s. Trainer Subratie believes because the Santa Rosa track is faster, the Jamaica-bred horses perform better. He failed to build on that run, and finished a disappointing fourth in the 2,400-metre Jamaica Derby to Perfect Neighbour, finishing very distressed, and probably swallowed his tongue.
In none of his starts in Jamaica did he sport a tongue-tie, and when fitted with the equipment on his debut run at Santa Rosa, he scored unchallenged by 21 lengths in a fast 1:51.
He will be tested today, but with USA-based jockey Javier Castellano--booked to ride the colt--arriving in the country yesterday afternoon, his assignment could be that easier.
O’Brien, aware of the colt’s ability, will have to use one of his runners as the “rabbit” to test any chinks in Bigman In Town’s armour. And his talented colt Headline News is the only runner in his quintet who could set a strong early gallop, leaving stablemates, Pot Of Gold, Prince Zeshan and War of Words queuing up behind to take aim at Bigman In Town.
“Bigman” is a versatile sort, and if the race is run at an honest pace, stablemates Prince Zeshan and War of Words will start their move passing the halfway stage. This race will unfold when they approach the 800-metre marker, and at that point, Headline News should continue to lead the way with Bigman In Town Prince Zeshan, and War of Words starting their run to the leader.
With a shorter homestretch than in Jamaica, Castellano will press the gas and set his colt alight to thwart War of Words’ bid for Triple Crown success when they enter the homestretch. He should stretch away from a closing War of Words and Prince Zeshan to score very easily and add to Castellano’s long resume.
Post time for this race is 4.45 p.m.