Brilliant run by She's A Maneater
SHE'S A MANEATER yesterday repelled a determined challenge from BIGDADDDYKOOL in the stretch run, handing Wayne DaCosta victory in the $3.5 million Burger King Superstakes - the missing jewel in a stellar career spanning 16 trainers' titles at Caymanas Park.
However, DaCosta's historic win did not come without its share of trials before yesterday's satisfying finale.
First, SHE'S A MANEATER's regular jockey, Omar Walker, who guided her through 10 wins, including this year's Triple Crown, broke his wrist weeks before the big race.
Next, his replacement, Dane Nelson, back in the island from a fourth-place finish at Canada's Northlands Park, fell ill three-quarter way through yesterday's 12-race card, forcing DaCosta to call on Anthony Thomas, an apprentice rider with a little over two years' experience.
"I went and talked to the owner (Winston Kong), who said Thomas had just won the Sprint with Chace The Great, so why not give him the ride," DaCosta explained.
Thomas, one of the hottest riders at Caymanas Park throughout the summer, before the arrival of Dick Cardenas, rode a masterful race against none other than the Panamanian aboard Anthony Nunes's BIGDADDYKOOL.
Breaking SHE'S A MANEATER well from postposition one in the 10-furlong race, Thomas left the clubhouse turn third, just off the rail, while her stablemate, DYSFUNCTIONAL, disputed the lead with SUPERLUMINAL entering the backstretch.
Things soon got heated on the lead as WILL IN CHARGE and UNCLE TAF joined the fray, relegating SHE'S A MANEATER to fifth, racing alongside another stablemate, ROYAL VIBES, while BIGDADDYKOOL started a dangerous move from behind to almost join her four-and-a-half furlongs out.
Thomas, however, kept his cool before unleashing the filly, who made a darting run to go after the leaders, leaving the half-mile, getting first run on BIGDADDYKOOL, who was badly bounced by repeat offender UNCLE TAF.
The filly's crippling move saw her soaring to the lead, coming off the home turn, with BIGDADDYKOOL charging at her after recovering from the hindrance.
Thomas's display in the stretch run belied his time in the saddle, expertly guiding the filly towards the rail, a move that spooked Cardenas into taking a pull a furlong and a half out.
This gave Thomas the breathing space he needed and he made good use of it, rallying SHE'S A MANEATER, who won by two lengths in a time of two minutes and six seconds, the fastest Superstakes run since MIRACLE MAN won the first of his two titles in 2:04.3, back in 2005.
"It's another great experience from a great horse. I am just lucky to train her," DaCosta said after the event, a victory that drove a dagger into Nunes' hopes of dethroning his rival in this year's trainers' championship.
DaCosta started the day with $50 million in stakes earned, leading Nunes by $4 million. The Superstakes winner's purse plus HOVER CRAFT's fourth-place finish pushed the champion trainer's earnings to almost $53 million.
Nunes had earlier won two races on the 12-race card - PATRIARCH and HOUDINI'S MAGIC - earning $1.3 million. A win in the Superstakes would have taken him to approximately $50 million.
Thomas was the star jock on the day, though sharing honours with Dane Dawkins and Shane Ellis, with two winners apiece.
He was equally impressive aboard Dwight Chen's CHASE THE GREAT in the Caribbean Sprint Championship, taking the shortest route into the straight and guiding the four-year-old gelding to a one and a quarter length win at 1200 metres.
Racing continues at Caymanas Park on Wednesday.