Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Title-chasing jockey Shane Ellis highlighted yesterday's nine-race programme at Caymanas Park with three winners, including UNCLE KEN at 2-1 in the Mortimer 'Morty' Heron Memorial Cup feature (claiming $250,000-$210,000) over 1820 metres.
The second-generation jockey, who finished second to Dick Cardenas in last year's championship, also won the third race over 1100 metres aboard the highly thought of American three-year-old colt RICHIESHAPPYNOTION (2-5 favourite) for trainer Lorne Kirlew and the fifth aboard 4-5 favourite SAGA BOY for trainer Fitzroy Glispie.
UNCLE KEN, on the other hand, provided rookie trainer Robert Alveranga with his first career win in landing the 'Morty' Heron Memorial by 21/4 lengths from the highly fancied SEEK GOLD (8-5), with the 6-5 favourite CRUISER finishing another half a length away third. Nine ran.
Owned by Lawrence Freemantle, UNCLE KEN broke on top from the number six post position, but soon gave way to LADY GORAKHPUR and the 99-1 outsider NO SMOKING. Ellis, however, was merely biding his time aboard UNCLE KEN, who improved to be a clear second approaching the half-mile. He took control approaching the final bend, holding SEEK GOLD and CRUISER at bay from early in the straight for a decisive win.
Alveranga, who became a full-fledged trainer last September after graduating with 22 others from the Jamaica Racing Commission course for assistant trainers, was quite elated to have saddled his first winner.
"It's an overwhelming feeling," said the former Waterford High student.
"I've been preparing for this moment for a long time and this is the start of something I can build on in the months and years ahead," he added.
Alveranga, who was assistant trainer to Carl Anderson prior to obtaining his licence, said he was a bit tentative before the race, but Ellis told him not to worry as the horse was 'a little soup', especially after the late withdrawal of down-in-class SIR JAADU BABA (lame).
Ellis has now ridden five winners this season - eight adrift of clear leader Dane Nelson, who rode two winners in SUNSHINE BOY (4-5) and 7-2 chance DON GEORGE, both for in-form trainer Gary Subratie.
American-bred REASONABLE PRESS (formerly Clever Cherokee), ridden by leading all-time jockey Winston Griffiths for 14-time champion trainer Philip Feanny, posted an impressive fast-time win in the eighth race over 1400 metres for overnight allowance horses, chasing and disposing of the leader FLUFFY (8-5 favourite) entering the straight to win by three lengths in a time of 1:25.4.