Sprint champion Stars again
Newly crowned champion trainer Wayne DaCosta continued his dominance of the major trophy races in recent months when POKER STAR won the St Catherine Cup open allowance feature over 1100 metres at Caymanas Park yesterday to confirm his status as the country's top sprinter.
Installed a 4-5 favourite, with Robert Halledeen aboard, POKER STAR, coming from the number-one post position under topweight of 57.0kg, chased the fleet-footed BUZZ NIGHTMARE in the backstretch before getting the inside run and the lead when 'BUZZ' drifted out entering the straight.
Under a bustling ride from Halledeen, the four-year-old bay gelding by Liquidity out of Buyabook kept on strongly in front to stave off the ever-present CAMPESINO (7-5) under new champion Shane Ellis on the inside by a length, covering the distance in the good time of 1:05.2 behind splits of 22.4 and 45.1 on a slow surface.
Owned by Alexander Haber and bred by Y.S. (1955) Limited, POKER STAR, according to DaCosta, has come on a ton after disappointing over longer distances during the 2015 classic campaign but really wanted to sprint.
"This is a horse who won twice over 1300 metres in 1:17.2, and having won the Glen Mills Caribbean Sprint championship behind a fast time in his previous race on November 14, knew he was ready for all comers in the sprint department ... . His next race could be in February, and we will take it from there," said the 15-time champion trainer, who saddled three winners on the 10-race programme.
The others were 3-5 favourite CRUISING MOTION (Halledeen up) in the second race for maiden three-year-olds, and BIG GEORGE, a 1-5 favourite in the very next race over 1200 metres, with former champion Omar Walker aboard.
Walker, who also won the opening race for high claimers aboard 9-5 favourite ITALIANO for trainer Neive Graham to complete a double, shared the riding honours with Halledeen on a day when POKER STAR was one of five winning favourites. The lightly raced MEDICAL INSTINCT at 20-1 in the sixth race for maiden five-year-olds and up provided the day's major upset.