Tomorrow is Barbados’ Massy United Derby Day. It is the biggest occasion in the island’s horse racing calendar for locally-bred three-year-old horses. And the Garrison Savannah is anticipated to be at fever pitch for the race.
Connections of pre-race favourite Gandalf who was in with a shot of winning the triple crown were dealt a blow today when an objection against the horse was upheld by the Barbados Turf Club’s stewards thus rendering him ineligible for that triple crown racing honour.
Gandalf won this year’s Barbados Guineas, the first leg of the triple crown. He then passed the pole first in the Pinnacle Feeds Midsummer Classic but following an objection for interference by connections for Stealin, he was declared the unofficial winner only. Today Brave Star was declared the official winner of the race. Ironically, Brave Star is owned by the same connections as Gandalf, Bills Inc. The Massy United Derby will run off tomorrow at 4.50 p.m. and will be race 7 on the card with a purse of $68 000 in addition to $34 000 in subscriptions.
Gandalf will try to emulate his half-sister Poetic Licence who won the Massy United Derby in 2015 giving her owners Bills Inc. their second win in the race after winning with Voldemort in 2014. Big day winning-jockey Jalon Samuel will be astride Gandalf which has drawn gate 6.
Trainer Victor Cheeseman who equalled late trainer Val Gale’s winning of three Derby races in a row when he won the 2016 event with Northern Star, will have three runners tomorrow.
Cheeseman will saddle Gandalf, Brave Star and JackmanannyGap in this year’s race. The late great Bill Marshall is the only trainer to have the first, second and third placed horses in a Derby when he saddled 2004 Derby winner Captain PJ, second placed horse Star Burst and the third-placed Super Style.
Horse number 8 Brave Star who ran second to Gandalf in the Barbados Guineas and was second past the pole in the Midsummer Classic before being promoted to first, will be looking to defeat Gandalf fair and square this time around. Rickey Walcott will ride Brave star tomorrow.
Jamaican-born trainer Andrew Nunes will be another trainer aiming to equal Bill Marshall’s record of having horses finish first, second and third in a Derby.
Nunes who won his first Derby in Barbados with Apostle in 2007, then having back to back success with Kendel Moon in 2011`and Bandera Belle in 2012, will be the second trainer after Cheeseman to saddle three runners this year. He will be sending out Tamarama, Whatyouthink and Aquila.
The filly Aquila, the only maiden in the field, has drawn gate number 3. The last horse to win the Derby as a maiden was Game Of Chance in 1972.
Trainer Edward Walcott Jr. has won two of this major race in the last five years. He sent out Knight Rider in 2013 to upset pre-race favourite Nekitta which was trained by Cheeseman and simultaneously prevented from winning the triple crown that year. The modest trainer won his second Derby last year with Butterfly. Walcott will saddle Jewel which has two wins in her last three starts.
Jewel will be ridden by Antonio Bishop who will be going after a hat-trick of Derby wins after victories in 2016 with Northern Star and 2017 with Butterfly. Eric Holder and Chally Jones are the only two Jockeys to win a hat-trick in this prestigious race. Holder won the Derby in the years 1951 to 1953 and Jones was victorious from 1968 to 1970.
The rest of the field is made up of Stealin, My Friend Patch, Pretty Princess and Don’t Doubt Dorris.
During a press conference for the Derby draw at the Incitatus Members Lounge during the week, director of Massy United Insurance, Mickey Armstrong, spoke about his company’s involvement in the Derby under the previous name of United Insurance. The company is the longest sponsor with the Barbados Turf Club being associated with the Derby since 1985.