'Chiefs' rule PM Stakes
Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer
In a terrific stretch duel down to the wire, COMMANDING CHIEF, responding to a powerful ride from champion jockey Dane Nelson, squeezed home by a short head from fellow 8-5 chance PERFECT NEIGHBOUR in the 52nd running of the Prime Minister's Stakes grade one feature over 2000 metres at Caymanas Park yesterday.
The large holiday crowd buzzed with excitement as the horses flashed past the post locked together, but the Everal Francis-trained COMMANDING CHIEF on the inside was adjudged the winner over last year's derby winner PERFECT NEIGHBOUR with champion apprentice Shamaree Muir riding for champion trainer Wayne DaCosta.
Racing on a moist surface caused by a slight drizzle late in the afternoon, COMMANDING CHIEF, toting topweight of 57.0kg and gunning for his third consecutive win from as many starts this season, led narrowly passing the stands for the first time in a field of six.
He passed the half-mile ahead of UPPA TUNE, followed by the marginal favourite PERFECT NEIGHBOUR and highly fancied TYPEWRITER (2-1) on the rails, but had to contend with a strong challenge from PERFECT NEIGHBOUR on the outside at the final bend.
A neck-and-neck duel ensued and as both horses pulled away from the others, with PERFECT NEIGHBOUR seemingly pointed a furlong out. But riding like a man inspired, Nelson, called 'The Warrior Chief', dug deep and in a vintage riding display over the last furlong, gained the ascendancy on the line in a tremendous head bob - a rare treat for racing fans.
"I was able to get Com-manding Chief to relax on the lead as the expected challenge from Uppa Tune up front did not materalise," Nelson explained. "I rode a smart race into the straight and when Perfect Neighbour came calling leaving the quarter pole and actually put the head in front, it came down to a jockey's race.
"But 'The Warrior Chief' in me clicked in and the combination of the two chiefs made all the difference. I have now won three races with him this season and I can tell you, he's a different horse this year. Prior to that, he was a horse who ran well in all the major distance races like the Superstakes, but lacked the killer instinct. Today, he's a killer," exclaimed the two-time champion of the 2013 Gold Cup winner and 2011 St. Leger hero.
A six-year-old chestnut gelding by War Marshall out of She knows Beau, COMMANDING CHIEF is owned by Doks Stable and bred by Paul Chen. This was his 14th win from 30 career starts, with total stakes of $11.7 million.
Owner Orrett Welington said The Chief's next objective is the Governor General Stakes on Heroes' Day, before moving on the Superstakes in November.
Nelson, who started the day's locked on 53 wins with Dick Cardenas in the jockeys' championship, was bettered by both Cardenas and Shane Ellis, who rode two winners each. Cardenas, who pointed with 55 wins, was second past the post aboard the DaCosta-trained ALL CORRECT (5-1) in the third race for overnight allowance horses, but was awarded first place following the disqualification of UNCLE TAF (5-2) for taking his ground on the rails early in the last furlong, forcing ALL CORRECT to switch outside and only lost by a head.