The winning connections leading in Gandalf (left) and Brave Star after the Derby. (Picture by Kenmore Bynoe.)
Bills Inc’s Gandalf and Brave Star’s bruising battles have captivated racing enthusiasts leading to the duo dominating all three jewels of the Triple Crown where they were just fabulous.
However, with the heart of a lion and the flying feet of a gazelle, Gandalf conquered all, casting aside any doubts as to who is the best.
It took another sensational display by Gandalf in the running of the Barbados Derby to restore normal order when the Classic, filled with intrigue, anticipation and controversy, was staged at the Garrison Savannah on Emancipation Day last Wednesday.
Gandalf, a son of Rocamador out of Poetic Licence, simply put the exclamation mark on an excellent 2018 Barbados Triple Crown contest with another majestic display of equine brilliance.
Jockey Jalon Samuel, astride Gandalf, rose to the occasion and executed flawlessly for Bills Inc. in the 79th edition of the Massy United Insurance Barbados Derby over 2000 metres. They, no doubt, will for some time be discussing how the Triple Crown escaped.
Gandalf’s rise to stardom was evident from his maiden victory on March 17 in the Oscar “Locke” Padmore Memorial, after which he next galloped to a relatively easy four-length win in the Triple Crown’s first jewel – Barbados Guineas. Both races were contested over 1 570 metres.
Hot on his heels was his stablemate Brave Star who somewhat spoilt Gandalf’s résumé with a crushing defeat by eight lengths in the 1 800 metres Breeders Stakes. With both superstars trained by champion trainer Victor Cheeseman, it made the Triple Crown contest even more enthralling and captured the attention of racing enthusiasts.
That built the stage for the second jewel – Midsummer Creole Classic – which was full of drama as Gandalf reversed the positions with Brave Star, by five and three quarter lengths.
That win was shortlived as, following an objection, Gandalf was disqualified by the race stewards, who found his jockey Rasheed Hughes guilty of irresponsible riding.
That disqualification meant that Gandalf was denied the opportunity of shot at history in winning the Triple Crown and a bonus of $100 000 for his connections. An appeal followed, which was unsuccessful. With the series rocked by the controversial ruling, it was on to the Derby.
However, it proved to be a joyous occasion for the connections of Gandalf and Brave Star, as the Bills Inc. pair dominated once again. Gandalf’s winning fractions of 25 seconds for the quarter, 48.5 for the half and six furlongs in 1:15.3, shows the pace was quite average, before stopping the clock in 2:08.4 for a gratifying one-length success, in what was an electrifying and tension-filled atmosphere.
Nemesis Brave Star, who is a very game animal, fought gallantly and all can be proud of his seasons, as he is quite a distance ahead of the other contenders. Gandalf’s pedigree and class cannot be questioned as he is very well bred. He is out of breeder Philip Moseley’s mare Poetic Justice, who also produced Bills Inc’s second Derby winner in Poetic Licence earlier in 2015.
Gandalf’s dam is a daughter of Janak, who sired not only Bills Inc’s first Derby winner in Voldemort, but also the current Derby record holder in Fresh Milk, who holds the record at 2:06.3, when winning in 2008.
Almost a dozen lengths back in last Wednesday’s Classic was another Cheeseman trainee in Jackmanannaygap, giving the champion trainer an unprecedented one-two-three.
Although he trails fellow trainers, William C. Marshall, with nine and Challenor Jones, with five in Derby wins, Cheeseman etched his name in the record books by becoming the first to win four Derbys in five years.
He did the hat-trick with Voldemort, Poetic Licence and Northern Star before his new star Gandalf settled many an argument over Brave Star. It was a champion run from Gandalf on a day of champions. Many will now watch to see what further heights this star can scale. (LY)