The Grade I contest for West Indian-bred three-year-olds returns to its customary place on the Republic Day holiday card after being contested close to the end of the last two seasons because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Derby is the final leg of the Triple Crown and the only ones of the eight contestants realistically capable of prevailing are Crown Prince and Soca Harmony, winners of the first two races in the series.
After her overpowering 8 3/4th-length triumph in the middle jewel – the Midsummer Classic – on Emancipation Day (August 1), Soca Harmony could be one of the very few members of the fairer sex to start favourite in the Derby.
Leading Lady got the job done as the overwhelming 3/5 top fancy five years ago and the other fillies to win the 2,000-metre contest in Arima were New Millennium in 2000 and Pride ‘N’ Glory eight years later.
However, Soca Harmony is attempting to become the first one to prevail without accepting the sex allowance.
Males are assigned three kilos more than females in Stakes races but the Lester Moore-bred and owned daughter of J’ouvert will go to post with either the same 57 kilos as the colts and geldings or as close to it as possible with Nobel Abrego’s overweight.
This was considered insane when he was booked in the “Midsummer”, but the Panamanian is one of the most gifted jockeys seen in the last couple decades and Soca Harmony ended up producing the best performance of her career with him astride for the first time.
Crown Prince, who had beaten his John O’Brien-trained stable companion into second in their three previous career meetings – including in the Guineas to start the Triple Crown on Indian Arrival Day (May 30) – has been gelded since that resounding defeat and we will find out today how much of a difference it will make to the outcome.
No full siblings have won in back-to-back editions since the Derby was first contested in 1930, but this chestnut is the full brother of last year’s Derby winner Stroke Of Luck, also bred and owned by Rajendra Maharajh of Raroma Stable.
Champion trainer O’Brien will also saddle Guineas third Princess Aruna and the field also includes Davindra, who placed third in the “Midsummer” seven weeks ago.
The $109,000 contest will be the first race with three-figure prize-money since the pandemic first hit in March 2020 and the winning owner will receive $65,400.
Stroke Of Luck, who won the Derby in mid-December, will be in action right before the Blue Riband event – in a modified benchmark handicap for 90-70 rated horses at 3.35 p.m.
The 1,350-metre contest will be the first one-turn event for the Independence Cup hero in over a year.
The quality field of nine also contains Patta Patta and Soca Harmony’s sister, Soca Symphony, who placed third and fourth respectively, behind Stroke Of Luck in the Derby.
Also included is Super Bird, who won the Champagne Stakes and placed second in the Independence Cup this season, as well as Pawan Putra, third in both the President’s Cup and Santa Rosa Dash.
In addition to the live races, the card will include two Grade I US$1 million events simulcasted from Parx Race Course, Pennsylvania, USA.
The Cotillion Stakes is scheduled to take place at 5.20 p.m., 20 minutes after the final local event, and the Pennsylvania Derby come off about 40 minutes later.
Post time for the 16th round of the Arima Race Club’s 2022 Season is 12.50 p.m.