JUICE MAN turned in another sensational performance when horse racing resumed after a one-week break yesterday at Santa Rosa Park, Arima.
Last year’s Horse of the Year outclassed a high-quality bunch of 80 and over horses to win the penultimate and feature attraction of the seven-race Emancipation Day holiday card.
Although punters made Juice Man the 3/5 favourite, it seemed a very difficult race on paper as he had not faced the starter in four-and-a-half months, while arch-rivals Apocalypse and General JN had raced four weeks ago.
It didn’t matter one iota in the end as Glen Mendez’s charge made all the running to score a very comfortable 4 ¼-length triumph in the 1,750-metre contest, stopping the clock in a snappy time of 1:49.44 seconds with multiple champion jockey Ricky Jadoo up.
The Handicap event was supposed to be contested over 1,600 metres on the turf, but it took place on the main track after a heavy and lengthy shower attacked the already soft inner course less than an hour before.
The switch worked in the favour of Juice Man, General JN and Apocalypse as none of the “big three” had competed on the lawn before.
However their connections would have been disappointed as they have been nominated to compete in the Grade I Independence Cup over 1,800 metres on turf on Independence Day (August 31).
Juice Man has an awesome record over “a distance of ground” since he came across from Jamaica around the middle of last year.
Justyn Kanta Persad’s four-year-old has won six of seven times over two turns in Trinidad, with his only blemish being a heart-breaking defeat by a head to Apocalypse in the Caribbean Champion Stakes at the end of October.
Juice Man was attempting to score for the fifth time in succession and his win-streak had included beating Apocalypse into second place in the final two legs of the Triple Crown—Midsummer Classic and Trinidad Derby Stakes.
Apocalypse was in second place until the far turn yesterday, but the 5/2 second favourite could not keep up when the heat was turned on and ended up sixth of the second finishers, 12¼ lengths behind his nemesis.
It was the first time that the gelding, who had won six times and been the runner-up in all three legs of the Triple Crown and Gold Cup last year, had finished off the tins in 14 career outings.
Apocalypse’s John O’Brien-trained stable companion General JN is usually making the running or being very close to the lead, but he came from off the pace this time and threatened Juice Man for the lead turning for home.
But last year’s President’s Cup hero was toting as much as 7.5 kilos more than his conqueror and was forced to settle for second place after one-pacing in the straight.
After stretching his streak to five wins in a row by taking the Diamond Stakes on Republic Day (September 24), General JN has now lost his last six, but he has been the bridesmaid all four times this season.
The Jamaican-bred five-year-old edged former two-time Horse of the Year Thisonesforron by a half-length, and Spoke In Yuh Wheel rounded out the top four, 1¾ lengths back.
Stockyard and Root Of Jesse, who probably would have been the ones to beat had the race remained on grass, were the other two finishers, but fellow turf specialist Howsweetitis was pulled up in the homestretch in his first outing in almost 14 months.
Juice Man was racing for the first time since he was surprisingly placed in the 1,200-metre Santa Rosa Dash and ended up seventh of eight over a trip well short of his best in the middle of March.
The son of Storm Craft, who has earned over $300,000 from his nine starts at Santa Rosa, had also failed to find winners’ enclosure in his other one-turn outing (1,300 metres), finishing second to Awesome April after a three-month absence on late January.
The 13th round of the Arima Race Club’s 2020 Season will take place next week Saturday, after another one-week break.