Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Jolly good ride by veteran Najair

Published:Thursday | December 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMOrville Clarke
Jockey Wesley Henry walks with his racing equipment in his hands after winning last Saturday's Gladiator Trophy event over 1400 metres aboard PHINEAS at Caymanas Park.

Veteran jockey Vassell 'Jollyman' Najair, at age 62, became one of the oldest jockeys to win at Caymans Park, this aboard the Oneil Markland-trained STIR IT UP in the ninth race over 1100 metres for the Titania Trophy yesterday.

STIR IT UP stormed though approaching the distance, disposing of the leaders FIRE ALARM and SWEET DIMENSION for an 11-1 upset, winning by four lengths.

It was the second time in eight days that Markland, who is popularly called 'Sweety Man', was providing Najair with a winner, following the 35-1 outsider FIX IT UP over the round five course on December 15, Najair's first winner in over three years.

Najair, who started riding as an apprentice to the legendary female trainer, Eileen Cliggott, at Caymanas Park in 1967, joins David 'Scorcher' McKenzie as the oldest jockeys to win at the park.

McKenzie, who is still active in the saddle at 66, recalled that he rode his last winner four years ago at age 62 as well. And McKenzie was on hand in the vicinity of the Jockeys' Room to congratulate Najair on his return.

Trainer Markland, who also ran FIX IT UP in the race with an apprentice rider replacing Najair, said he was always confident that 'jolly' would get the job done.

"Despite his age, he's one of the fittest jockeys at the track. It's all about self-belief and Najair is convinced that he has some good years left in the saddle," said Markland.

Smiling from ear to ear en route to the Jockeys' Room - accompanied by the trainer - Najair, a father of three, said despite a rocky career, which included a number of suspensions mainly for anger management related issues, he still enjoys the thrill of victory.

"They will have to carry me off the track ... in another 10 years," he jokingly remarked.

Meanwhile, in the two other trophy races on the card, the Gary Subratie-trained BLUE DIXIE turned the tables on recent conqueror BUBBLING KITTEN by a head in the Sweet Ruckus Trophy. First past the post LORD EQUUS, in the Stewards' Cup, was disqualified and placed second following a stewards' inquiry and the race awarded to first-time runner SIR RAJA BABA, with whom he had interfered a furlong out.