“Have I missed anything?” the small boy in the disheveled prep school uniform hopped nervously from foot to foot, peering over his father’s shoulder for a glimpse of the as-yet-forbidden fruit.
“Take a bath, eat your lunch and then we can talk” was the gruff response.
“But, have they started?” The boy had run all the way home from the bus stop and, even in his already overheated state, was not going to be put off.
“No, they haven’t started yet” the long-suffering father knew that there would be no peace until the prized information was released “now go bathe!”
It was the 1960s in Jamaica. Television itself was still a new marvel and the broadcast of races from Caymanas Park, that modern, sweeping racing complex that had ousted Knutsford Park as local racing’s capital, wasn’t to be missed at any cost. The little boy was a student at Musgrave Prep, a seminal institution on Maurescaux Road and the personal fiefdom of the indomitable Iron Lady of teaching, Mrs. Margaret Sasso. Regardless of their condition on entry, Musgrave Prep students left her care and custody as the envy of the academic world. The little boy had a healthy respect for Mrs. Sasso and the requirements of her homework assignments but, on those few Wednesday afternoons that horse racing was beamed over JBC-TV’s airwaves, homework responsibilities were thrown to the wind and all was focused on getting home earliest and ensuring post time for the first race found him glued to the TV.
The little boy was born with horse racing in his blood. His entire family lived and loved the sport. His mother grew up with her siblings on Arnold Road in the 1930s and 40s. Their home nestled between the stables of legendary trainer Abbie Grannum and a sprawling yard occupied by Patriarch of Jamaica’s first racing family, Tewfik Ziadie. His mother and her baby brothers spent more time at Abbie’s stable than in their own home often sharing with the grooms in a delicious breakfast of boiled dumplings and saltfish, cooked on the spot over a wood fire. This always triumphed over the more nutritional fare supplied by their own mother who frequently despaired that her children would come to nought under the influence of the “ne’er-do-wells” at the stable. His father served in the R.A.F. during World War II so became an English racing enthusiast.
He never tired of hearing his mother’s stories of the days when Abbie, who was more than well acquainted with the “demon rum”, tended to leave the day-to-day details of the training of the horses to Mrs. Grannum. In those days it was unheard of that a woman should hold a trainer’s licence, but his mother was present at the stable in the wee hours of many, many mornings as Mrs. Grannum would shout instructions to the grooms over Abbie’s loud snores – evidence that he hadn’t yet recovered from the previous night’s close encounter with Mr. J. Wray or one of that redoubtable captain of commerce’s many nephews.
There was nothing wrong with Abbie’s horsemanship, drunk or sober, and he was a very good jockey in his day. The little boy remembers his mother’s story of Abbie, frustrated by a bad ride given by stable jockey Charlie Neath (who had won back-to-back Derbies for Abbie on JIM CRACKERJACK and BROWN BOMBER in 1942 and ‘43), taking down the jockey in a fit of temper and riding the horse himself (at an advanced age) to win a race. Abbie Grannum saddled a phenomenal 402 career winners.
Part II in a fortnight….
This regular review of local performances is based on REAL times.
Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of the effect of track conditions on official times to arrive at “real” or “corrected” times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” a slow track (e.g. -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.
Keen observers would have made a mental or physical note of my May 18 advice: “Outrageous Taj (-11) is also on the upgrade (Race 3; 3yonw2/Imported Maidens; 1300m; TV-3) outstaying importees Super Sparkle/Hilly’s Halo (-7) by 2½ lengths in 1:19.0! The winner’s CT (1:19.3) is 3/5ths second faster than nw3. The 2nd/3rd produced a joint CT (1:19.2) which is 1 2/5ths (or 7/5ths) second faster than Imported Maidens standard and 2/5ths second faster than imported nw(?) so they are winners in waiting”
Outrageous Taj had a fling in the Grade 1 Lotto Classic before returning to a race in which 3yo non-winners of 3 were eligible but over a quick sprint (1000 metres straight) where his stamina would surely be blunted. Plus, discerning punters would’ve noticed there was one 3yo in the race that had already won 3 races. His name was Peking Cruz and he duly obliged at an unbelievably overlay price of 9/2. Yum, yum! As soon as a non winners of 3 (nw3) over 1300m+ is found for Outrageous Taj, readers should be lapping up the resultant payout.
There was no messing about with Super Sparkle who won next time out (June 16) as a 4/5 favourite.
Hilly’s Halo was inexplicably fitted with first-time visors for her next race (also over 1000m straight) and she was a staying on 1¼ lengths 3rd so her stocks remained high for her next race when the visors were removed and she won over 1200m at 9/5. Then she confirmed her progressive profile by repeating as the sole importee in a race for native bred 3yos (June 30) by all of 11½ lengths at 12/1! She was written-up at our last get-together (July 13) as “to be followed all the way to the top. The Invitational Mile on Superstakes Day is not beyond her and seems a feasible late season target.”
Don’t you think it’s time you made a special appointment with Public Opinion every other Friday?
Let’s see what’s happened since we last met:
July 18, 2018 [TV +0.9 per 200m (Rd); +3(str)]
MY BEIRUT (-1) took advantage of a huge drop in grade (Race 6; 3yonw2/Imported maidens; 1500m; TV+7) to win as he liked by 14½ lengths clocking 1:34.3 on a very slow track. His CT (1:33.1) equals Overnight Allowance standard and is 3/5ths second faster than nw3 so he is nailed on to win more races.
July 21, 2018 [TV+1.2 per 200m (Rd); +8 (str)]
PEKING CRUZ (-8) improved again [Race 3; Imported 3yo+nw3 and maidens/4yonw3OT/Native Bred 3yos; 1000m (straight); TV+8] switched to the near side and producing a taking turn of foot to win going away by 5½ lengths in 0:59.0! His CT (0:57.2) is of the highest class (Open Allowance standard 0:58.2); he’s unexposed and very much on the uptick; so should be followed all the way to the top. He’s another strong candidate for the Caribbean Championship sprint on Superstakes Day..
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
In English Racing, the disappointing GILGAMESH [2¾ lengths 7th of 28 when erroneously asked to drop back in trip for the Wokingham Stakes (6 furlongs) then 6¾ lengths 10th of 18 in the Bunbury Cup (7 furlongs)] has swerved tomorrow’s Gigaset International Stakes (Heritage Handicap; 7f) at Ascot in favour of the Golden Mile Handicap at Goodwood (August 3). It’s a good decision because that seems to me to be his perfect trip but Goodwood is a downhill, turning track so he’s not certain to act around that unique track. Royal Ascot Notebook Horse CURIOSITY whose subsequent 2nd in the Bet 365 Handicap (one mile) at Newmarket, where, sweating, he raced freely against the pace bias, has to be upgraded so either one could win. CURIOSITY needs a strongly run race at a mile (should get it at Goodwood) but, long term, he looks ideal for the 9f Cambridgeshire at Newmarket.
In the Gigaset, I’d look no further than VIA SERENDIPITY who was a length ahead of GILGAMESH in the Victoria Cup over course and distance and races off only 4 lbs higher despite subsequent form figures of 213.
Finally, another notebook horse from Royal Ascot:
ORTIZ [3yo ch.f. Havana Gold – Almatinka (Indian Ridge)] is a half-sister to several winners, and her dam is a half-sister to smart winner up to 1m Alanza. She cost only £11,000.00 as a yearling but is already proving a great buy. Her latest run in the Sandringham (2 ¾ lengths 2nd of 23 to Agrotera, a pattern-headed horse still in a handicap) where she obviously enjoyed her first race at a mile, impressed with how she travelled and also with her turn of foot to lead down the centre two furlongs out is what now establishes her as a filly to follow.