CHAMPION trainer John O’Brien is usually confident about his charges heading into their races but, when interviewed, you have to read between the lines as he does not openly express their chances.
Speaking to the Express yesterday, O’Brien was in a jovial mood and sounded ultra-confident about Triple Crown contender Momentum, who goes after the middle jewel of the Triple Crown series in today’s 1,900-metre Carib Brewery Midsummer Classic at Santa Rosa Park, Arima.
The “Classic” is the ninth race of a ten-race holiday card and carries a purse of $450,000.
Last year, O’Brien won this race with War Of Words, who was beaten in the final leg of the series, the Trinidad Derby Stakes, by Bigman In Town.
Nine nominated West Indian-bred three-year-olds are entered today--seven Jamaica-bred and two Trinidad and Tobago-bred contenders--and the raging favourite will be Momentum, winner of the 1,800-metre NLCB Easter Guineas, first leg of the Triple Crown.
And O’Brien, who travels on the Triple Crown journey once again, is very upbeat about Midsummer Classic success.
“He is fine,” O’Brien stated. “He got a two-turn race under his belt and it obviously helped him. He worked very well. Momentum will go a long way. They are not sure to catch up with him.”
About the opposition, he said: “You have to respect the fact that Cramers Rule has won both his starts, but against lesser lights. Spitfire beat him in Jamaica and Momentum beat Spitfire, so he has some way to go. Newcomer Bigman Bas, I suspect, needs a little more time. He did not work that well on last Saturday morning.”
Regarding last year’s champion two-year-old filly Soca Rhapsody, who will be clashing with Momentum for the first time, he said: “She was a little behind the colts, timing wise. I just think she might still be a little behind them. Justcallmebas (also trained by O’Brien) should move up a bit.”
And Momentum’s owner, Dr Rupert Indar Junior, added: “He came out of the Guineas well. He has been training well. Everything is going to plan and we will see what happens on the day.”
Moving to the other graded race on the card, the 1,200-metre Carib Beer Santa Rosa Dash, which O’Brien won last year with Crime Of Passion, the trainer said: “It is one of the tougher sprint races to come about for a while now. It is a nice kind of race.
“You must respect Bigman In Town with 50.5 kilos in an event like this. Intact, who won in 1:10.4/5 with similar weight, must have a chance, and then you have Signal Alert and Readbetweendlines, who are going well. It is a tough race.”
And regarding his improving three-year-old colt Coroneo, who worked very fast last Saturday, O’Brien said: “It is a nice attractive race. You will need a bit of luck. I do not think Coroneo is tough enough. In his last start (beaten by Intact) he was asked a question, and sure as hell they will ask him a question in this race.
“Crime Of Passion missed some training, he had a stone bruise. The three days of training he missed will be an issue. I know ‘Bigman’ has an issue, but with 50.5 kilos you have respect him. I was impressed with Thisonesforron, if he switches his lead he will have a shot.”