Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer
The final prep for the 2000 Guineas on April 6 takes place at Caymanas Park today with nine down to face the starter in the 22nd running of the Prince Consort Stakes over 1400 metres for native-bred three-year-old colts and geldings.
The race, often referred to as the Guineas Trial, offers a total purse of $1.3 million and with several of the top colts and geldings present, should be keenly contested.
Top contenders are the Wayne DaCosta-trained trio of HOVER CRAFT, winner of the $4.25-million Supreme Ventures Jamaica 2-y-o Stakes last Boxing Day, the runner-up PERFECT NEIGHBOUR and ROYAL VIBES. Significantly, all three will be ridden by top claming apprentices.
Other leading lights are Owen Sharpe's UNCLE TAF and the Patrick Chang-trained WILLIE GOLDSMITH, who is unbeaten in two starts.
DaCosta holds a very strong hand with topweight HOOVER CRAFT, PERFECT NEIGHBOUR and the lightly weighted ROYAL VIBES. The 12-time champion trainer has called up 3kg claiming apprentice Renardo McNaughton to pilot HOVER CRAFT in an effort to reduce the weight to 54kg, while another 3kg claimer, Orlando Foster, stays aboard his Pick-3 winning ride PERFECT NEIGHBOUR (working very well), whose weight comes down to 53kg as a result.
In-form 3kg claiming apprentice Prince 'Daggerman' Holder, has the leg over ROYAL VIBES, who carries a mere 48kg.
All of the DaCosta-trained horses have good claims, with the closers HOVER CRAFT and PERFECT NEIGHBOUR expected to be bang in contention at the end. ROYAL VIBES, having shown good speed in his races, will be gunning to make all from the number one post position. However, with WILLIE GOLDSMITH present and looking razor sharp at exercise in preparation for the race, ROYAL VIBES will not have things his own way.
Indeed, I think WILLIE GOLDSMITH, having won his two races by the combined margin of 113/4 lengths, looks the pick of the weights with only 52kg and four-time champion jockey Omar Walker aboard.
The chestnut colt by Traditional out of Gracious Gift looked awesome in victory over this trip when slamming PISCEAN ROCKET (who renews rivalry) by six lengths in the fairly good time of 1:27.0 on January 26 and if he hopes to have any chance in the Guineas, should be able to beat his eight opponents at these weights today.
WILLIE GOLDSMITH looked razor sharp at exercise on Monday morning, galloping five furlongs in 59.4 and having secured a perfect draw on the outside, gets the nod over PERFECT NEIGHBOUR and HOVER CRAFT.
I also like REAL VIBES MACHINE in the first race, Derby winner TYPEWRITER in the third, TITAN in the fourth, AUSTIN LUKE in the fifth and down-in-class CRUISER in the seventh.