Orville Clarke, Sunday Gleaner Writyer
Champion jockey contender Dick Cardenas rode two winners at Caymanas Park yesterday to inch ahead of arch-rival Shane Ellis in their intriguing contest for the title at Caymanas Park.
Having secured eight rides on the nine-race programme, Cardenas drew first blood in the second race over 1100 metres with an emphatic victory aboard 2-5 favourite BUSY to move to 85.
Ellis came back two races later to level the scores once again, thanks to a decisive win aboard 5-2 chance LOVETTA JONES in the 3-y-o maiden race over 1400 metres, the bay filly providing the recently graduated second-generation Andre Graham (son of trainer Neive Graham) with the first win of his career.
However, Cardenas was back in front two races later aboard 3-1 chance I'M ALLWRIGHT for trainer Anthony 'Baba' Nunes, this time at the expense of Ellis on the 1-2 favourite TANTALOO.
I'M ALLWRIGHT was brought with a well-timed run on the outside to catch the battling TANTALOO midway through the last furlong to win in a driving finish.
Thereafter, Ellis tried desperately to get back on terms with Cardenas, but his highly fancied mounts in the last two races - ELOPING EMMA and REDS THOMAS - were beaten into second place by AWESOME MARQUE and MADURA GOLD, respectively.
Hopes kept alive
To some extent, reigning champion Omar Walker kept his slim hopes alive with two winners as well. These were the 4-5 favourite REGGAE PRINCESS for trainer Nicholas Edwards in the third race and SANKOFA at 6-1 for Paul 'Sleeper' Charlton in the knotty sixth race for $180,000 claimers to move to 76 - 10 adrift of Cardenas.
Dane Nelson also rode two winners in SAINT EVA at 5-2 in the opening race and AWESOME MARQUE at 3-1 in the day's feature for the Cecil C. Charlton Trophy (claiming $550,000-$500,000) over 1300 metres.
Waited with in fifth as the Cardenas-ridden RIVER STYX (9-5) led from ELOPING EMMA in a field of seven, AWESOME MARQUE stormed through in mid-stretch to win by five lengths from ELOPING EMMA (5-2) and the 6-5 favourite LIKKLE BIT.
The 5-y-o bay gelding by Burning Marque out of the 2001 Derby, Oaks and Guineas winner Awesome Power, provided trainer Carl Anderson with his 50th career win. Anderson is also the owner and breeder of AWESOME MARQUE.
Oneil Markland, who recently graduated in a batch of 23 new trainers, saddled his first winner in 4-1 chance MADURA GOLD.