Friday 6th April 2012
18th horse-racing meeting 2012 – 8th April

by Magnat

A horse-racing meeting will be held at the Marsa racetrack next Sunday (Easter Sunday), starting at 2pm and having eight all-trot races on the card.

After last Sunday’s Dragonara Casino Tazza l-Kbira final, another exciting meeting with six finals awaits us next Sunday.

Primarily, we have the innovation of a Consolation Final on 2,640m for Dragonara Casino Tazza l-Kbira semi-finalists which did not qualify for the final. Indeed, making it to the semi-finals in the face of such strong competition is an achievement and the quality of the eight trotters registered to participate on Sunday is undoubted.

These include five French horses, two Swedes and an Italian, aged between 11 and 15 years. The French had overseas winnings of between Euro123,530 and Euro361,880, the Swedes have foreign winnings of SEK411,060 and SEK1,063,350, whilst the Italian participant won Euro237,317 abroad.

In Malta they won around 30 races between them. Impressive results by all accounts.

The full line-up is: Nasko Pride, Nagano Phedo, Normand d’Oger, Lou Petiot, Energy Launcher, Bello Fratello, Eastwood OM and Noble d’Ete.

The Condition Races include a final for each class, with two finals being reserved for the Silver class, all on 2,140m.

The ten participants in the Fairplay Bingo Gold Class Condition Race Final comprise four each from France and Sweden, and one from Italy and the Netherlands. Each of them has registered a time of between 1’15’0 and 1’16’4 per kilometre and four of them have been promoted (or is a point away from promotion) to the Premier class on the strength of their recent optimal performances.

A very balanced race is anticipated with the finalists being: Peasant Gallant, Oscar de la Vallee, Nicos de Peneme, Imbra d’Alfa, Figaro A. West, Zilver Boko, Oscar Mati, Galileo Bisa, Oviedo du Sam and Lime Casted.

Interestingly, the two Silver class finals involve a wide age range, with participants’ ages varying between 7 and 15 years. Between them they have registered nine wins and no less than 25 places since the start of this year.

The line-up for these two finals (hailing from Denmark, France, Sweden and US) is:

Vida Silver A Final: Charlie Smitt, Stainless Steel, Stoms Alex, Number One of Max, Prince du Moutier, Confidence As, Mint Condition, Nevada Silver and Lovely Mab.

TRM Silver B Final: Conmore Toll, Lonestar Somolli, Phenix d’Or, Eastwick, Cross Country F.C., Oregon de la Foret, Meadow Dancer and Onwards Star.

The eight Finish Line Bronze class Condition Race finalists (in numerical order) are: Belbroughton Road, Lorenz de Noyelles, Ackaturbo, It’s My Way, Robin Lou, Hickory Crown, Mr King and Lazume Simoni.

The following are the nine registered competitors (also in numerical order) in the Paul & Shark Copper class Condition Race final: Kejser Engely, Emil Brebro, Zut, Katuelo, Lorraine d’Oliverie, Gamin Launcher, Dandy, Mistral du Chene and Orasi Index.

The first and the last race of the day are “normal” ones, one for the Copper class and the other for Silver class trotters.

Indeed, a fitting programme for Easter Sunday ... the spectacle continues at the Marsa racetrack!

Last Meetings

After a month of expectation, the heats, the semi-final and then the final, we now have a winner. And the winner is ... Mig of the Wood!

The Dragonara Casino Tazza l-Kbira final was held in glorious sunshine in front of the largest crowd of the season. The finalists were eleven, as unfortunately, Livi Cantona, one of the big favourites, had to be scratched.

Nuage de Bourgogne took an early lead but was followed closely by Mig of the Wood, which was soon joined by Nabab du Chatelet running on the outer lanes. The race speed increased materially in the last lap and 600m from the end True Q launched a strong attack also on the outer lanes.

Nuage de Bourgogne accelerated further, but with a few hundred metres to go, Mig of the Wood launched its strong attack which led it to take the lead soon after the horses entered the final straight. It maintained it till the end to win by nearly two lengths, with driver Noel Baldacchino raising his hand in triumph even before reaching the finishing line.

The winner’s time was a very good 1’15’4 per kilometre on the 2,640m distance and it was followed by Nuage de Bourgogne, Mystere d’Urfist, Nelson du Val and Nabab du Chatelet in that order.

For Mig of the Wood it was the first seasonal win, its third in Malta in the eight races it participated in so far. It was Noel Baldacchino’s third success in the Tazza l-Kbira final after the wins registered on James de l’Iton in 2008 and 2009. The drivers currently occupying the first three places in the MRC drivers’ classification featured in the first three places in the Dragonara Casino Tazza l-Kbira final too.

After the race, the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth & Sport Hon Clyde Puli and Ms Svetlana Bukova, representative of the sponsors Dragonara Casino Lounge & Bistro, in the presence of Malta Racing Club Chairman Dr Matthew Brincat and other MRC Council members presented the trophies and cash prizes to the winning and placing owners and drivers.

But last weekend also included other interesting features. In Saturday’s meeting, veteran driver Raymond Clifton gave the Maltese racing community something to cheer about in the first leg of the Mediterranean Horse Racing Union’s drivers’ championship, held in Malta.

He guided his charge Polytain to take a small early lead from Petit Veinard and Wonderofyou. Polytain maintained its lead until the final straight when it suffered Petit Veinard’s attack and appeared to be overtaken by the latter, but Clifton’s experience spurred Polytain to recover and to win by a head to the crowd’s cheering. It was followed by Petit Veinard (Attilio Golia – Italy), Wonderofyou (Dusan Zorko – Slovenia) and Syllabub (Olga Bodnar – Ukraine).

In the first Premier class race, Nomade de Mai registered its second seasonal win, taking an early led and maintaining it all the way to win by over a length from Nuper, Veikko Hornline and Niky du Donjon.

In the second, Oviedo Vici maintained the lead until the horses entered the final straight, when a strong sprint by Count of Life led the latter to the front and to register its second seasonal win in a good time of 1’15’7 per kilometre on a 2,640m distance. Utah Hornline, Natieu d’Echal and Oviedo Vici took the places.

The three Gold class races were won by Paradis du Lupin (first win in Malta), French newcomer (coming in as a reserve) Quid de la Muette and Orlando Tejy (second seasonal win in the third best time of the weekend, 1’16’2 per kilometre on 2,640m).

The Big Day

“Mig of the Wood nets big prize”, “Triumph for Mig of the Wood”, “Mig of the Wood wins the main honour”, “Mig of the Wood in a class of its own in the Tazza l-Kbira”. These were some of the newspaper horse-racing headlines this week.

It is indeed fitting to give honour to the winner but last Sunday, the whole meeting was memorable. It was a glorious Mediterranean spring day, sunny with a few thin clouds and a light breeze.

It was also the most numerous crowd that I remember seeing in recent years, including a good number of tourists, who appeared to be enjoying the spectacle as much as the Maltese ...

The organisation was impeccable.

The commentators presenting the race and the participants as well as the live commentary of the race were all first class.

The parade of Jaguar classic cars and Harley Davidson classic bikes which then transported owners and drivers for presentation to the spectators, the participating horses’ parade wearing the special blanket and led by their handlers.

And what a pleasure it was to see once again leading the participants’ parade, two great stars of the Maltese horse-racing scene, now retired, 15 year old 2008 and 2009 Tazza l-Kbira winner James de l’Iton and 26 year old 1999 edition winner Uquito d’Orphee, still holding the record for number of race wins in Malta.

Looking at them I could not help wondering whether these two champions were excited, perhaps thinking that they were going to race again. But today, they were not there to work, but only to be honoured!

In the paddock, before the race, the excitement among horses, drivers and handlers was of the highest order. Tense faces, drivers walking around to keep their nerves under control, participating horses coming in one by one impeccably attired, surrounded by their handlers. Trainers and drivers discussing race strategy and horses seeming as nervy as the humans surrounding them, appearing to realise that this was a special day.

It was the succession of preceding races that gave us an idea of time and it was a relief for all when the bell sounded for the finalists to go on track for the last few minutes of preparation before the race.

The race itself has been aptly described as a classic. At the end, there could only be one winner, but all finalists will enter into Maltese horse-racing history because managing to make it to a Tazza l-Kbira final is a feat which only a small percentage of horses ever manage to achieve. Without them all, the final could not have been the memorable one it was.

The post-race limelight is rightly reserved for the winner. The presentation ceremony, the traditional commemorative photos of family, friends and backers with the winning horse and driver and then the post-race celebration (or should I call it reception?) in the stables after the meeting.

But the image that I will treasure most is that of the winning horse in its stable after the race, having been washed and fed, calmly observing the human beings around it celebrating its victory, with the horse seeming to enjoy the company of two small children playing around it and with it.

A great image of that noble animal which we call “horse” ...

We wish you all a Happy Easter and another exciting meeting next Sunday.