Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer
The seventh renewal of the Supreme Ventures Triple Crown Series for native-bred two-year-olds commences at Caymanas Park today with the $2.95 million Cash Pot 'Only One For Me' Trophy over 1200 metres with 10 starters declared.
The series, which offers $11.7 million in total prize money, including $6.5 million donated by Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL), continues on Saturday, November 24 with the $3.6 million Pick-3 Super Challenge Trophy over 1400 metres, climaxing on Boxing Day (December 26) with the Supreme Ventures Jamaica 2-Y-O Stakes over 1600 metres.
SVL's contribution includes a million-dollar bonus to the owner of the horse good enough to win all three races in the series.
Today's race brings together top contenders HOOVER CRAFT, stable-companion PERFECT NEIGHBOUR - both from the stables of champion trainer Wayne DaCosta - as well as ALISON, COUNTRY TRAIN, LADY OF MERIT and UNCLE TAF, all winners since the start of the 2-y-o campaign.
DaCosta holds a very strong hand with three challengers in HOOVER CRAFT, PERFECT NEIGHBOUR and LADY OF MERIT.
Both HOOVER CRAFT and PERFECT NEIGHBOUR have been burning up the track at exercise in preparation for this race, finishing heads on in a fast 1100 metres gallop on Sunday morning. Both were timed in 1:06.2 and as things now stand, it could be difficult to separate them, especially with leading jockey Dane Nelson and champion jockey Dick Cardenas down to ride them.
Trainer Owen Sharpe introduced his highly thought of UNCLE TAF to the races on Wednesday, October 3, and the chestnut gelding by Traditional out of Zaza scored a remarkable victory over 1100 metres, coming from a seemingly hopeless position after missing the break from the number-one post position to win by 11/4 lengths from the front-running THIS IS IT.
To say that UNCLE TAF was impressive in victory would be an understatement. Now a lot better for the experience, he can definitely win again, especially with Lasix administered for the first time.
Also on the well-supported 12-race programme is a mouth-watering clash between reigning Horse of the Year and champion sprinter SAINT CECELIA (Shane Ellis again) and the island's top imported horse MISMYRTLEBOYRICHIE (Omar Walker up) in the $1.18 million None Such Sprint Trophy (grade one) over 1200 metres. SAINT CECELIA has won her last eight races, including three races this season.
It will definitely come to a straight fight between them in a field of six. However, it is significant to note that the last time SAINT CECELIA suffered defeat, it was inflicted by MISMYRTLEBOYRICHIE over 1300 metres in June of last year and with the American colt from the stables of Lorne Kirlew catching pigeons at exercise in preparation for today's race, galloping 51/2 furlongs in a fantastic 1:05.1, should upstage SAINT CECELIA in receipt of 1.0kg from her.
Other firm fancies on the card in the Cash Pot Sprint Trophy (third race) for two-year-olds, EL PONDEROSO to repeat in the in the fifth, AUSTIN LUKE in the sixth, THORN in the eighth, CLASSIC PRINCESS in the ninth and PRIESTKING over PERSIAN GOLD in the nightpan.