The day was promoted as the 'clash of the two-year-olds' and the latest crop of juveniles did not disappoint. With Supreme Ventures providing sponsorship, the youngsters, probably the best of the lot to race this year were well prepared and performed as such.
The Pick-3 Challenge Trophy with a hefty purse of $3.6 million was the feature over seven furlongs, with punters awaiting the toss-up involving the unbeaten Uncle Taf from the barn of Owen Sharpe and the trio of Hovercraft, Royal Vibes and Perfect Neighbour all trained by champion conditioner Wayne DaCosta.
The race lost some of its competitiveness and pizazz as Uncle Taf entering with a two from two win record continued his roguish behaviour of the past at the starting gates, this time going in, turning around before eventually being declared a late non-starter by the on duty veterinarian.
As expected, Country Train went to the lead with the main contenders hovering close to the pace as they positioned themselves for the final two furlongs of the straight. Perfect Neighbour though was at the back of the field seemingly affected by something untoward at the start which caused him to jump and twitch.
Entering the straight, Royal Vibes with champion jockey elect Dane Nelson turning the screws; El Numero Uno (Winston Griffiths) and Hovercraft (Dick Cardenas) were making the final pitch for victory. Unbeknown to them, young apprentice Orlando Foster was winding-up Perfect Neighbour from last position on the inside rails. Perfect Neighbour, one of only two maidens in the star-studded field, responded well and with an unhindered run came through to win by three parts of a length with Royal Vibes second and Hovercraft third.
Foster is learning his craft with aplomb and must be singled out for particular praise as his handling of Perfect Neighbour has to be regarded as a special ride. He was patient and allowed the horse to get into his gallop easily without placing undue pressure on the bay colt despite the early setbacks.
He was never flustered, he had the confidence to wait, and when he decided it was time, he positioned himself on the rails and simply applied the assistance necessary to score the win. A very patient and well thought out ride by the apprentice, who we hope will learn from races like this and grow from strength to strength. Well done, Mr Foster.
Punters now wait with the usual stock of racing anxiety for the finale of the two-year-old season, the one mile Jamaica Two-Year-Old Stakes on Boxing Bay and let's hope by then Uncle Taf would have mended his errant ways at the starting gates. He is just too good to leave out.
The other two-year-old race on the card, the five-and-a-half furlong Sunnyside Stakes, ended in a stirring duel between Shamrock (Aaron Chatrie) and Money Move (Richard Mairs) with Mairs literally riding for all he was worth just being able to thwart the challenge. Trainer of Money Move, Fitzroy Glispie continues to build his career within the profession. He scored another win on the day with Raging Prospect.
Congratulations are offered to apprentice Davidan Robinson for riding his first winner aboard Cajun Fiddler for trainer Lance Richards.
All in all it was a great day of racing, with the two-year-olds once again proving their considerable worth as an essential part of the racing product.