Parsard unveils Ja Derby, Ja Oaks double-salvo
IAN Parsard kept a poker face and cards close to his chest throughout, waiting until yesterday’s entries morning to unveil a twin assault on Saturday’s biggest purses at Caymanas Park – BIG JULE in the $7.5 million Jamaica Derby and St Leger third-place SHE’S A WONDER - for the $3.5 million Jamaica Oaks.
Up to late Tuesday evening, the racing office remained in the dark as to whether lightly raced BIG JULE would actually make the derby, rushed back into training by Parsard after a setback had forced him to miss his derby prep at nine furlongs and 25 yards on July 17.
However, yesterday’s overnight derby programme confirmed what railbirds have been humming after watching BIG JULE, a fast-time runaway winner on June 21, go through his paces for the last two weeks.
Parsard’s favourite rider, Omar Walker, will be aboard BIG JULE in the 12-furlong derby, taking on St Leger-winner CALCULUS and runner-up FURTHER AND BEYOND, whereas MINIATURE MAN, the 2000 Guineas winner, is an absentee from the 12-horse field.
“The decision was made this morning,” Parsard said, late yesterday, detailing BIG JULE’s path to the derby after recently describing his progress as “one day at a time”.
“Despite the multiple setbacks since his showing in the nine-furlong and 25-yard race, maybe six weeks, or more, ago, we have asked him to climb Mount Everest over the last two and a half weeks. He has responded bravely, and despite the fact we know we are not at a hundred per cent at preparation with him, he is sound, happy, healthy, and maybe at 80 per cent, or so, we’ve decided to give him a shot to make it to the peak of Mount Everest,” Parsard revealed, pointing out that he had concerns but was assured by Walker.
“It has been steady. We have had to work him twice per week as opposed to once. Two weekends ago, he galloped six furlongs with DOUBLE CROWN in 1:17.0. The following Wednesday, we asked him to pace from the winning post. He did a nine-furlong pace work in about 2:08.0.
“He came back on Saturday, galloped a mile and finished the last seven furlongs in 1:32 and change, which was okay. I wanted a little more from the work, but the jockey was not unhappy. I wasn’t over the moon because the gallop out wasn’t good. However, speaking with Omar, he said the horse knows when the game is over once he passes the winning post.
“It was more on Omar’s reassurance that we said keep going. This week he has been happy and doing everything we’ve asked him. This morning I asked him to do a gallop from derby distance, and he picked it up down backstretch in about a 15 pace (per furlong). He came back good, got a good vet check. That box was ticked and his appetite excellent. I left him at the table an hour ago, and he is eating well.
“He passed the vet check, so I am sure he is over soundness issue. Even at 80 per cent, he has a good shot at the derby,” he surmised.
Parsard believes Gary Subratie’s CALCULUS, who easily won the St Leger, is the horse to beat on paper.
“I think the horse to beat is CALCULUS, not because he won the St Leger, but more so because of all the horses prepping for the race, he seems to have had an uninterrupted path. For that reason, I would say he’s the horse to beat.”
Meanwhile, he’s leaving nothing to chance in the 10-furlong Oaks with SHE’S A WONDER though she beat all but two colts in the St Leger and now faces her peers in the fillies-only Oaks at the same trip.
“Never, Sir,” he responded when asked whether he thought the Oaks was an open-and-shut case.
“It’s a 10-furlong race in which she’s lining up against 11 other horses. It’s horses. Anything can happen in a race. My approach to it is similar to MAHOGANY yesterday,” he said of his stable star’s nonchalant romp against the country’s best sprinters. “We try not to take anything for granted. We try to stay professional from start to finish.”