Young rider Kimal Santo became the first apprentice to win Trinidad and Tobago’s Triple Crown, piloting the favourite Wise Guy to a fighting win Saturday as the gelding logged the first Derby Stakes triumph for a T&T-bred horse in a decade.

PT Racing’s Wise Guy accelerated in deep stretch and repelled challenges from his John O’Brien stablemates Apache and Bella Riva to win the TT$70,000 (US$10,500) Derby by a length and a quarter as the big 2-5 favourite.

“Emotions are running very high right now, I am too excited I can’t even explain how I am feeling,” the 20-year-old Santo told SportsMax.TV after a famous win that gave champion trainer O’Brien his eighth Derby victory and a second Triple Crown success after Momentum in 2014.

Coming off wins in the Guineas in late September and the Midsummer Classic five weeks later, Wise Guy clocked two minutes, 09.66 seconds for the 10-furlong trip. He became Santa Rosa Park’s fourth triple crown winner after the Glenn Mendez pair of Carnival Messiah (2001) and Top of the Class (2003) and O’Brien’s Momentum six years ago.

From the four-box, Santo, in only his second year race-riding, broke Wise Guy smartly and was satisfied to stalk the pacesetters as the 50-1 outsider Nuclear Fire set the early fractions ahead of top filly Bella Riva, the 7-1 third favourite.

The Jamaica-bred Nuclear Fire led by a length and a half down the backstretch tracked by Bella Riva and Wise Guy with American Traveller (50-1), Princess Steffani (35-1) and Apache (4-1) within striking distance.

The field was tightly bunched leaving the half-mile – five lengths separating the first nine horses – with Nuclear Fire about to surrender the lead, rapidly swallowed by 16-time champion O’Brien’s big three.

Coming off the final bend, Bella Riva, the 2019 champion two-year-old who was second to Wise Guy in the Guineas, quickened to lead but the new Triple Crown champion’s challenge was swift and he was at her girth in a flash. Santo swapped left-hand whipping for vigorous right-handed cracks early in the homestretch as Wise Guy struggled initially to shake the filly’s very stout challenge.

Wise Guy’s superiority showed nearing the finish as he moved clear and he already had the 10-furlong run sewn up when his other stablemate Apache closed rapidly to snatch second.

“All the hard work has paid off and I have now gone down in history,” said an ecstatic Santo, who rode three other winners on the afternoon and sported tears of joy as he returned with Wise Guy to the winners’ enclosure.

The victory was Wise Guy’s sixth in eight starts this year and trainer O’Brien’s fourth Derby triumph in the last seven years.

“It was a very proud moment for me, it seems he wanted to give us some heartache as he did not really quicken until late in the race but I am very happy,” said O’Brien after his sweep, identical to the finish of the October 31 Triple Crown second-leg Midsummer Classic.

“They ran the same 1-2-3 (as the Midsummer) so they obviously seem to be a cut above the rest,” O’Brien said.

Wise Guy’s weekend success snapped a nine-year streak of Jamaica-bred horses winning the T&T Derby. By J'ouvert of the Freshly Squeezed mare Maid Of Honour, the chestnut gelding is the first native-bred Trinidad Derby winner since Back on Top in 2010.

 

 

 

Michael Bernard’s colt Nipster shattered the champion owner’s top horse Wow Wow’s Triple Crown bid in delivering a 31-1 upset victory in Saturday’s Jamaica St Leger at Caymanas Park.

Ridden from off the pace by Linton Steadman for trainer Gary Subratie, Nipster swept to the front inside the final furlong and won the 10-furlong Classic by a length and a quarter over his stablemate and 1-2 favourite Wow Wow in a fast time of two minutes 06.00.

“It’s a bittersweet moment I must say,” a smiling Bernard said. “I really expected and wanted Wow Wow to win so he could continue on his Triple Crown journey, but it’s a wonderful feeling,” he quickly added after watching his two three-year-olds snatch first and second in the JA$3 million (US$21,000) event.

The 20-1 bet Oneofakind was a further half-length behind in third and the even-money second favourite Mahogany struggled to fourth.

Out of the starting gates in pouring rain, 1000 Guineas and Oaks runner-up Another Affair, one of four Subratie entries, shot to the front with Wow Wow, the 99-1 bet Green Gold Rush and King Arthur (8-1) tracking.

Another Affair quickened to lead down the backstretch by seven lengths followed by the 2019 Champion two-year-old Wow Wow and King Arthur racing as a team. Green Gold Rush was fourth and as they hit the six-furlong marker, Mahogany, who had entered the backstretch in 10th spot, gained rapidly toward the lead and moved into fifth spot.

Nipster was still not among the front six at the half-mile as Another Affair’s lead shrunk to just over two lengths with Wow Wow poised to pounce while King Arthur and Mahogany closed in to challenge.

Wow Wow’s rider Robert Halledeen, anxious to keep the 2000 Guineas winner on the Triple Crown path, flew past Another Affair leaving the three-furlong marker with Mahogany on his heels and Wow Wow held command at the top of the homestretch.

Heading to the eighth pole, Wow Wow still led and appeared to be safely repelling Mahogany’s challenge while Oneofakind -- widest of all -- looked threatening and Nipster suddenly appeared with a sprightly rail run.

In a flash, Nipster collared Wow Wow and moved clear with the ecstatic Steadman standing tall in the saddle even before the finish as the colt logged his fifth win in 14 lifetime starts.

“From half mile out I saw he (Nipster) had a whole heap of gas that could last out and become a winner,” Steadman said after his second St Leger triumph.

For Steadman, who had also won the 2016 St Leger with Bigdaddykool, it was his first time aboard Nipster in a race but developed a connection with the Casual Trick-Nippit bred colt after two exercise gallops aboard him.

“The horse is an easy horse to ride, quiet and very easy to deal with. He is cool and kind and (as long as) a horse is cool and kind that’s a whole heap of horse,” Steadman added.

Nipster clocked the fastest St Leger win since War Zone’s race record 2:05.2 in 1996 while foiling Wow Wow’s Triple Crown bid.

“We are disappointed (for Wow Wow) but I am happy for the owner because he believed in the horse,” was Subratie’s take on Nipster denying Wow Wow the chance at becoming the third Triple Crown champion in four years – after She’s a Maneater (2017) and Supreme Soul (2019) -- at Caymanas Park. 

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