RACE DAY REVIEW – SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2023
Three-year-old maiden Hedge Craft, despite failing to leave the starting gates in an advantageous manner, including spinning and refusing to race in one of his four prior starts, was bet at 8-5 favourite.
Hedge Craft‘s start showed no improvement and may very well have been worse, but he was coaxed to make ground at his own timely pace to win the 1400-metre contest by over three lengths for jockey Roja Lahoe and trainer Welsh Soutar.
Top-flight reinsman Tevin Foster secured the first of three successes aboard promising juvenile Matuso (4-5) for trainer and breeder Richard Azan for the stable’s first of two wins on the card. The event was the traditional 1,600-metre Andrew HB Aguilar Memorial Trophy and was staged as the second of the nine events on the programme. Foster only had to wait an hour to confirm the second leg of his riding triple, with 4-5 favourite Sneaky Joe declared by trainer Dalton Sirjue to romp the 1,400 metres of race four by over seven lengths.
Bin Laden (9-2), a six-year-old horse and a difficult one to train, was having only his 27th racecourse appearance across four seasons. Ridden by Roger Hewitt, a return to winning ways in the day’s 1,600-metre third by nearly three lengths must have been especially satisfying for veteran conditioner Joseph Thomas.
Race five generated a few talking points as the race emerged as a virtual match between chief protagonists Mr Senator (9-2), trained by Anthony Nunes, with jockey Raddesh Roman and even money favourite Eazy Peazy ridden by Christopher Mamdeen who replaced 2023 champion jockey-designate Reyan Lewis. Although, usually racing from off the pace, Roman, in an enterprising change of tactics, elected to test the speed and stamina of rivals by rushing Mr Senator to control the early pace of the 1,500-metre gallop.
It was a war of attrition over the last 800 metres as Eazy Peazy applied sustained pressure to the frontrunner but was forced eventually to surrender by three parts of a length 20 metres out. The officiating Operation Stewards had a debate as to whether Roman’s persistent use of his whip, left-handed, to stay marginally in front from 200 metres out rose to the level of intimidatory tactics. Frankly, it did, but was deemed not to have affected Eazy Peazy‘s ability to prevail. Incidentally, it was the first of a double for Roman and, interestingly, the pair of Mr Senator and Eazy Peazy was 14½ lengths ahead of the third horse to finish.
Owner/trainer Patrick Smellie declared six-year-old gelding Buzz Assault (Oshadine Robinson) for the eighth time this season. Bet at odds of 8-1, the hard-knocking grey outsprinted his nine rivals in game fashion to beat closest pursuer Cold Pursuit by a length over the 1,000 metres straight of race six. Meanwhile, scoring by over five lengths, victory by Mouttet Mile’s fifth-place finisher Perfect Brew confirmed the Richard Azan stable double, and Tevin Foster’s third in the saddle was a mere formality.
Featured on the programme was the inaugural staging of the Will In Charge Trophy. The Gary Subratie-conditioned, US-bred Sistren Treasure outstayed rivals by two lengths over the 1,600 metres of race eight, with rider Raddesh Roman confirming his double riding form. Whilst in the closing 1,200-metre event, Hunza, a winner of two of his last three races, scored at odds of 15-1. Outgoing 2023 champion Dane Dawkins executed the riding assignment smartly for trainer Phillip Elliot for Hunza to hold on by a neck after working its way to lead 75 metres out.
The Training Feat Award is given to Joseph Thomas for presenting lightly raced Bin Laden in winning form. The Best Winning Gallop was displayed by Mr Senator in an effort that required speed, courage, stamina and the tactical acumen of Raddesh Roman who earns another Jockeyship Award.