DEFENDING Republic Bank Gold Cup winner Boogie Blues will not compete in the rich $500,000 Grade One showpiece today at Santa Rosa Park, Arima. He failed the veterinary inspection along with King Street, reducing the marquee event to ten runners.
Race nine has thus been further robbed of an intriguing finish since Montejo, last year's runner-up was euthanised eight days ago after suffering a condylar fracture to his right hind leg during routine exercise.
Three-time Horse of the Year winner Bruceontheloose who triumphed in the December 1 Stewards Cup, will have an easier time has he bids for the Stewards Cup/Gold Cup double. Third in this event last year, and with the two principals out, he has automatically become the horse to beat.
There have been concerns about his stamina, but "Bruce" has won twice over 2,000 metres, in the Trinidad Derby Stakes and the Gold Cup in 2009, and now that he is more mature, stamina should not be of concern. After he won this year's Stewards Cup, the doubts over his ability should have gone away. He was under a cloud, and came out like a true champion, blowing away his opponents. He has trained extremely well for this event, and although the camp of President's Cup winner Strikes Not Spares is ultra confident, having previously beaten Bruce in that race, they could be left in awe after the running of this event.
Trainer Terrence Thomas and jockey Ronald "Tiger" Ali's confidence is well earned as Strikes Not Spares has performed creditably throughout the season at the highest level. Thomas has explained that he worked out how to have the colt relaxed. And Strikes Not Spares, owned by young Christopher James, worked the best among the Gold Cup runners heading into this race, breezing over 1,200 metres in 1:14 with Golden Dixieland. He looks well and will have Bruce's camp on their feet from very early as they intend to take the battle to the main threat and test his staying power.
But it is not a two-horse race. Mobthewarrior also worked extremely well last Friday morning and also finished ahead of "Bruce" in the President's Cup. And with the extra distance, he must be in with a chance along with Derby-winning trainer Derick Mosca's trio of Buffalo Soldier, Galveston and Gabby's Gold. Meanwhile, Glenn Mendez will be represented by Readbetweendlines who will be partnered by Emile Ramsammy.
Creole Galveston will relish the test of stamina and with his light impost of 51 kilos and Calder-based rider Hugo Sanchez aboard, he must be in with an excellent chance. Galveston is one of the leading T&T-bred creoles this season and although beaten by Bruce, was not disgraced in the Champion Stakes where he had no luck.
Stablemate Gabby's Gold also trained well going into the race, but his rider Santiago Gonzalez will not be coming to ride. Wilmer Galviz however, is without a ride in the race and could fill the void. Ramsammy is tipped to ride Readbetweendlines who will relish a wet/fast surface, but looks held.
The "Bruce"/Strikes Not Spares clash will put the holiday crowd in good spirits, for they should be locked in battle from some way out and continue their fight into the homestretch. But the battle-hardened "Bruce" should round off the season with "Gold" and cap off trainer O'Brien's excellent year.
Post time for the ten-race card is an early 11.00 a.m.