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A THORNY ISSUE: Bright future for young Jalon

Andi Thornhill

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I had never seen the Garrison engulfed with so much emotion until Saturday.
Neither had I seen so many grown men cry simultaneously.
Women wept too.
Ironically, at that point there were all tears of joy.
In my opinion, Jalon Samuel’s victory in the Sandy Lane Gold Cup was the most popular in the history of the race.
Sad then that the public euphoria turned to dismay when an objection against him for an infringement at the top of the homestrecth was upheld.
What he said was the greatest moment of his life turned out no doubt to be the saddest in the saddle.
The victory and then the defeat reinforced my view that this affable teenager is well loved and his stakes went up even higher in spite of the outcome.
At 17, and to be champion jockey of Barbados is phenomenal. He has been riding less than three years to boot. His meteoric rise has endeared him to the average Bajan.
Indeed, his achievement was recognised by the National Sports Council at its annual awards ceremony for last year’s outstanding performances.
It’s against this background that we witnessed the outpouring of love for Samuel on Gold Cup day.
It may have clouded the average person’s judgement in respect of the decision the stewards made in relation to the protest lodged by the connections of Apostle.
Replays clearly showed that Samuel erred in not keeping a straight course even though victory seemed to be a mere formality for him and the connections of Show Me The Money.
From what I have seen of him in the past, he is a very level-headed jockey but on this occasion scenting the sweet smell of a Gold Cup victory he got carried away and carelessness caused him the ultimate accolade he would have deserved for a purposeful and well timed race.
His sense of timing and judge of pace remind me a lot of Chally Jones,Venice Richards and Patrick Husbands.
It will be tough for him to see his hard work go down the drain but he must accept liability and move on.
In the current climate of overwhelming sympathy for Samuel, it must be extremely difficult and awkward for the connections of Zoom which was promoted to first place when Show Me The Money was disqualified.
Everywhere I turned on Sunday there was talk that Samuel got unfaired and even if he was fined he should have been allowed to keep the race.
Sympathy has overshadowed the subsequent success of Zoom, its promising apprentice Antonio Bishop, trainer Edward Walcott Jr and owner Gay Smith.
Had they passed the post first it would have all been quite different.
The spontaneous adulation bestowed on Samuel would have belonged to Bishop. I can go on and on.
Considering that this was the first ever disqualification of a Gold Cup winner, it casts another shadow on the outcome because Zoom and the others were well beaten at the top of the final turn.
That they won it in the boardroom, though, is a manifestation that the rules of racing must be observed at all times and failing to do so could be costly.
Another issue to be considered by the Barbados Turf Club (BTC) is that their weak security was exposed after the main event.
Scores of Samuel’s supporters poured on to the track to join in the celebrations but the question is who would have been liable if the animal got excited by all of the attention and injured someone.
It wasn’t the first time we had witnessed such crowd response on the completion of the Gold Cup but I think the BTC needs to put greater measures to protect supporters from themselves and also to stave off possible liability to itself.
This year’s race proved that there can be a first for anything.
•Andi Thornhill is sports editor at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation and can be reached at [email protected]