Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Ten top-class horses are slated to contest the 41st running of the CTL Gold Cup over 1400 metres at Caymanas Park today, and with the very best on show, it's a race worth going miles to see.
Offering a total purse of $1.5 million, the popular grade one race has attracted the three biggest stars in local racing: SAINT CECELIA, who won last year's running; MARK MY WORD; and the top imported horse, MISMYRTLEBOYRICHIE, who will be apprentice ridden.
While this trio should carry the bulk of the betting, COMMANDING CHIEF, who failed by a short head to catch SAINT CECELIA in last year's race, should also enter the reckoning as he is most effective over middle distances.
Both SAINT CECELIA, the reigning Horse of the Year, and champion sprinter and the recent Superstakes winner, MARK MY WORD, are unbeaten this season and victory for either should ensure the Horse of the Year award.
Richard Azan's MARK MY WORD, who was Horse of the Year in 2010 and lost by a single vote to SAINT CECELIA in 2011, was fifth to his old rival in this race last year, but according to owner Randy McLean of the Elite Bloodstock Limited, things will be different this time around.
"He is better prepared for this year's race, and I think he is getting better with age," said McLean of the 2010 Triple Crown winner.
"Some would say seven furlongs against top-class horses would be a trifle short for him, but it should be recalled that he won the
Eros Trophy over the distance back in March in the good time of 1:24.3, and with a fast pace expected, they could play into his hands in deep stretch," he added.
Trainer Lorne Kirlew also spoke highly of his American four-year-old colt, MISMYRTLEBOYRICHIE, who won the CTL Imported Mile on November 10 in decisive fashion with customary rider, four-time champion Omar Walker aboard.
"I thought 54.0g was a fair handicap for him, but despite this, we felt his chances would be greatly enhanced if he was ridden by a top-claiming apprentice, Shamaree Muir, whose presence will reduce the weight to 51.0kg.
"Coming back well trained and so light in the weights, I really fancy his chances. True, he was beaten by SAINT CECELIA in the None Such Sprint over six furlongs two months ago, but this is seven furlongs, and we now have the weights to our advantage," said the second-generation trainer.
While MISMYRTLEBOYRICHIE and MARK MY WORD will be tough opponents, the horse to beat must surely be SAINT CECELIA, who is unbeaten in her last 10 starts, dating back to June of last year when she fell victim to MISMYRTLEBOYRICHIE.
The six-year-old mare from the stables of Spencer Chung now bids for her 11th consecutive win and although asked to carry topweight of 57.0kg under customary pilot Shane Ellis, her abundance of class and relenting form should see her through.
SAINT CECELIA has the speed to lead comfortably into the straight. I am expecting her to hold on grimly to beat the chasing 'MYRTLEBOY' and the fast-finishing MARK MY WORD under leading all-time jockey Winston Griffiths.
Other firm fancies on the card are PERSIAN BELLE in the opening Richard Ashenheim Memorial Cup, MR. SKILL in the third, down in class RAISE A RUCKUS in the fourth, MAYBE I SAY SO in the fifth, and SERIOUS BUSINESS in the seventh for the Titania Trophy.