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A THORNY ISSUE: Wanted – Better local horses

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Wanted – Better local horses

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THE LOCALLY-BRED HORSES were outclassed in Saturday’s Sandy Lane Gold Cup.

That’s the bottom line and I think that in the post-race analysis among pundits there was consensus on this point. Case closed.

Since there was agreement on this score, we could agree, too, that they were beaten but not disgraced. They were up against animals that run in superior company regularly, so you should expect the foreigners to dominate in a field without the same experience.

This stance from my end is not an attempt to make my favourite Just A Fashion look good, because if you finish second last, the statistic probably is self-explanatory if you base your assessment purely on the final position and not on a thorough analysis of the exchanges.

More importantly, the outcome was the epitome of the quality and depth of class that separated the foreign invasion from the local posse. The overseas horses took the first four places on the tins. Nothing to argue about.

The question to be asked is if the outcome will force local owners to go into the market and look for horses that will give them a chance to be more competitive in next year’s race.

Little to cheer about

Obviously, I don’t know how deep their pockets are, but the small matter of pride could come into play and could shape their intentions. You don’t want to be staging a very prestigious race and home drums are kept on mute and the fans have very little to cheer about. I expect some proactive movement in the coming months so that the scales can be balanced a year from now.

I think that the presence of the Ramseys and their success in the two previous years motivated their peers to bring charges they thought would stop that run. It is a move that paid dividends.

The Madoo Stables put faith in local trainer Robert Peirce to go to Gulfstream and find a horse that would earn them the ultimate prize. The Smiths had the same thing in mind when they purchased  War Envoy. The Ramseys had another two-pronged attack in an attempt to maintain their streak and were thinking initially of bringing a third to get the business done.

The point I am making is that the prestige of the Sandy Lane Gold Cup is on the rise again and the Ramseys may have a lot to do with that. We should take into account that when the United States’ leading stable in 2015 has a special desire to keep racing in arguably the Caribbean’s most prestigious horse race, it will automatically raise the stakes and help with brand recognition. I predict that more high-profile North American owners will soon be lining up to be part of the Gold Cup.

Positive spinoffs

It must be said that the Ramseys come as much for the competition as for the ambience and atmosphere you get at the Garrison and, by extension, the noted Bajan hospitality, which more often than not makes visitors feel at home and is responsible for many repeats. This warmth is integral to the success of our sports tourism product and there are positive spinoffs for the industry as a whole.

In any event, the big race still remains the centrepiece, the magnet that draws allcomers to the Garrison the first week in March, so the quality of the field must be of a certain standard to justify the patronage of the several thousands who attend the spectacle.

It is in this regard that our contribution should be more notable.

It was glaring that there wasn’t a full complement of runners this year and this was partly due to the fact that other possible contenders were nominated in either the Spa Sprint or the Tanglewood. This might have been an admission that we don’t have enough horses with Gold Cup pedigree.We need to fix that.

Barbados’ two biggest winners on Saturday were trainer Peirce and jockey Jalon Samuel. As noted before, Peirce chose Dorsett and the owners praised him afterwards for having an eye for horses. Samuel was simply fantastic. Quietly confident throughout the week, he proved again that his riding scholarship is destined to put him among that small and exclusive club of great jockeys we have produced.

One exuberant fan even went as far as saying that he was tempted to put him ahead of the legendary Chally Jones. I think it’s still too early to make that call, but the lad can certainly ride.

Andi Thornhill is an experienced sports journalist and media consultant.