Supreme Soul lands Triple Crown with fighting St Leger victory

By Lance Whittaker July 28, 2019
SportsMax's George Davis interviews jockey Shane Ellis and trainer Anthony Nunes during a post St Leger Interview at Caymanas Park on Saturday. SportsMax's George Davis interviews jockey Shane Ellis and trainer Anthony Nunes during a post St Leger Interview at Caymanas Park on Saturday. Photos by Tash McDonald

The colt Supreme Soul withstood a terrific and unexpected challenge from his stablemate Toona Ciliata to win Saturday’s Jamaica St Leger and become Caymanas Park’s 12th Triple Crown winner as trainer Anthony Nunes logged an unprecedented sweep of the top finishes.

Coming off wins in the 2000 Guineas in April and the Jamaica Derby in June, Chevan Maharaj’s Supreme Soul snatched the prized Triple Crown final leg as the 1-2 favourite with a tense win by a short head over the 7-1 bet Toona Ciliata in the JM$4 Million (US$30,000) St Leger under jockey Shane Ellis.

The filly Princess Ava, a 46-1 outsider, was only a further half-length behind in third and the front-running Earn Your Stripes (6-1) faded to fourth as Nunes became the first ever trainer to saddle the top four finishers in a Jamaica Classic.

“It was a great feeling seeing three, four of my horses coming down the homestretch but there was a little piece of me that wanted to close out the Triple Crown for the Maharaj family,” Nunes told SportsMax.

Nunes’s entries stamped their authority from the start as Earn Your Stripes galloped into a comfortable lead and went into the backstretch cruising with Supreme Soul, the 27-1 bet Cryptocurrency and Toona Ciliata in a stalking group behind.

Supreme Soul went in chase of his front-running stablemate approaching the half-mile, as Toona Ciliata reignited his effort having lost some ground to slip almost six lengths off the lead.

Coming off the final bend, Supreme Soul pounced on the fading Earn Your Stripes and briefly headed him before Toona Ciliata shockingly surged forward and grabbed a narrow lead from his far more distinguished stablemate.

A riveting stride-for-stride battle ensued with Linton Steadman aboard Toona Ciliata matching Ellis’s vigorous ride toward the finish, while Nunes’s Princess Ava also loomed as a threat when they flashed past the eighth pole.

Hampered by a worrying hoof problem during final preparation for the St Leger, Supreme Soul advertised grit to repel Toona Ciliata’s spirited bid to claim the narrow win, stopping the clock at two minutes 09.20 seconds for the 10-furlong trip.

Supreme Soul had been given sea training this past week to avoid the impact of his hurting hoof on the racetrack.

“What he’s been through this week, it was really hard on him. He battled through,” said Nunes, who had captured a 2016 Triple Crown in T&T with two horses, Academy Award landing the Guineas and the Derby and The Gatsby scoring in the Midsummer Classic.

Ellis was winning his fourth St Leger in eight years, having scored with Typewriter in 2012, Relampago (2014) and Marquesas last year.

“I am so proud, I am so happy with this Triple Crown win. I have always wanted to win a Triple Crown and finally I have done it,” said the 45-year-old ex-champion jockey.

It was the first Triple Crown triumph for Ellis and Maharaj.

“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said the Trinidadian Maharaj, who becomes the first non-Jamaican owner of a Triple Crown winner at Caymanas Park.

“Words can’t explain how I really feel about this Triple Crown win,” added Maharaj, who eyes another Classic success next week Thursday when his filly She’s So Spectacular tackles the Trinidad Midsummer Classic field at Santa Rosa Park.

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    Noted trainer Antony ‘Baba’ Nunes has strongly reprimanded the Jamaica Veterinary Services Division for the treatment meted out to Triple Crown winner Supreme Soul who remains quarantined in the United States.

    The four-year-old colt headed to the United States late last year for the Caribbean Classic at Gulfstream Park but has been unable to return to Jamaica after testing positive for the tick fever virus.  Based on existing protocol, the Veterinary Services Division has insisted that the horse be treated for the virus in the United States, but with the disease not endemic to that region the drugs need to treat the animal are not readily available.

    In the meantime, according to Nunes an email from the USDA stated that the horse had spent more than 44 days straight in a 10 by 10 feet quarantine isolation stall, which does not typically hold animals longer than 15 days.  The trainer believes the action borders on inhumane.

    “…If the USDA is telling you that it is inhumane to do that to this animal are you telling me that veterinarians from the country of which this horse was born are saying no you cannot come here, that you do not have a humane bone in your body to worry about this horse mentally and physically,” an irate Nunes told the SportsMax Zone .

    This horse represented his country, it’s no fault of his own.  It’s like Usain Bolt going to the Olympics, catching the flu and you tell him he can’t come back home,” he added.

    A part of the trainer’s grouse is based on the fact that he believes the tick fever virus is pervasive on the island, with over 50 percent of animals at Caymanas Park carrying markers for the disease.

    “For Veterinary Services Division to say that they cannot accept Supreme Soul back into Jamaica makes absolutely no sense.  In fact, if he was to be shipped back to Jamaica he shouldn’t even have to go through quarantine because the truth of the matter is that of the 1200 horses he is going to mix with at Caymanas Park, 1199 of them are already probably carrying the tick fever virus."

    According to the trainer, the USDA will not able to get tick fever medicine to treat the horse until around March, by then it could cost approximately $US40,000 to keep the horse in the United States.  At that cost, the trainer believes it could come down to a business decision, which could see the horse euthanized.

    “You are putting the owner in a position now where you are saying to him this going to cost you $US40,000 through no fault of yours or the horses and we are going to have to suck it up. No.”

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