Two horse-racing meetings will be held at the Marsa racetrack over the next few days. The first meeting will take place on Sunday and the next on Tuesday (1st May public holiday), both starting at 2pm. Each meeting has 9 races on the card being all trot events except for one flat race in Sunday’s programme.
In trot racing, we see a return to the 2,140m distance, whilst the flat race will be held on the 1,750m distance.
Both Premier class races have a full field of 16 registered trotters. Sunday’s race presents us with an impressive line-up, including this year’s Dragonara Casino Tazza l-Kbira final runner-up Nuage de Bourgogne and fifth placed Nabab du Chatelet, Tazza l-Kbira Consolation final runner-up Normand d’Oger, recent winners Nevaio des Bordes, Oviedo Vici and Utah Hornline (finalist in the Skyparks Swedish trotters’ Premier class championship) and many others.
Tuesday’s race sees a number of trotters having been recently promoted to the Premier class after strong performances in the Gold class, such as Master Lupin, Quid de la Muette and Knockout Molar. We also have Tazza l-Kbira finalist Troy Boshoeve and Skyparks Premier class championship finalist Skip Dimanche, as well as various horses in search of a positive performance in this tough class.
We also have an interesting international encounter race between Swedish and Maltese drivers, also on 2,140m, the Malta – Sundbyholm race. Horses registered for this race come from all classes between Copper and Gold. Once again, the opportunity of following our drivers competing against foreign drivers gives an international flavour to our racecourse and is always appreciated by the public.
We also have no less than six balanced Silver class races spread across the two race cards.
Two of these are races in which the participants are close to promotion to the Gold class and which include various horses which were racing in that class recently, as well as others coming from some promising performances, e.g. Petrus du Vivier (two wins and a place), Orage du Pont (runner-up in its last outing), Nasdaq du Closet (winner last week) and many others.
These Silver class races also include a number of newcomers: French trotters Paradiso Jiel, Pegase du Relais, Poete de la Sarthe, Pile Ou Face and Quartz des Pinons and Swedish Julian Port and Royal Rox.
The other trot races are four each for the Bronze and Copper classes. Quouky du Soir (FR) is registered to debut in the Bronze class.
The Class A flat race includes six interesting participants. Cheeky Jack and Sleepwalking registered wins recently, Darielli has a win and a runner-up position this season, current Mediterranean Derby holder Buttermilk which was runner-up a couple of weeks ago, the return of Prince Yarraman after a five month absence and the debut of newcomer Little Anthony (previously scratched).
During this time of year, which is so rich in championships, these two programmes provide an interval for “normal” races which should be equally entertaining and exciting, before we follow the finals from the Skyparks Swedish trotters’ championships and then the start of the SECF championships for French trotters.
There were various highlights in last weekend’s meetings.
On Friday we watched another successful edition of the Malta International Ladies Race. This saw Royal Crafts K (Kirsi Reijonen) taking an early lead from Pared An Hoel (Anna Karin Rundqvist) and Lys de l’Oasis (Olga Bondar).
However in the final straight, Ackaturbo (Pamela Westgeest) increased its pace, took the lead and maintained it till the end to register its third consecutive and seasonal win from Orage du Pont (Anita Gorter), Ygor of Pass (Lorraine Cunningham) and Pared An Hoel (Anna Karin Rundqvist) in this order.
It was thus a Dutch triumph with the first two drivers hailing from the Netherlands and a laudable third place for the Maltese driver (on a Dutch trotter). At the end of the race, current Miss World Malta Daniela Darmanin led the winners’ presentation.
An exhibition race was also held in which established drivers were accompanied by members of the Maltese national female football team on jog carts. The race was won by Incato driven by Darren Grima who was accompanied by Emma Xuereb.
We also had all the semi-finals from the Skyparks Swedish trotters championships on a 2,140m distance.
Two great races took place from the Premier class championship.
In the first, newcomer Chaco Bar went in front early on, with the lead soon being taken by Nec Carmolo. The latter led until about the last half lap when Utah Hornline started a strong sprint which led it to go in front and maintain the lead until the end, to take its first seasonal win in a very good time of 1’15’1 per kilometre ahead of fellow qualifiers Livi Cantona, Think Yatzee, Nec Carmolo and Skip Dimanche.
Wiss Night Hawk took the lead with about a lap to go in the second semi-final but on the back straight True Q started a strong attack on the outside lanes. These two horses challenged each other throughout the final straight, with the win ultimately going to True Q (its fourth seasonal win) by about a length in another good time of 1’15’8 per kilometre. Wiss Night Hawk, Candy Fantasy, Belafonte and Bello Fratello also made it to the final in that order.
The Gold class semi-finals were also extremely interesting. Hulot dominated the first one for most of the distance, only to give up its lead in the last few metres after a strong attack by Stefan Sufflor which took its first win in Malta. The same Hulot, Global Hunt, Kingpin La Marc and The Big Blue World also qualified for the final.
In the second, we had a wonderful struggle in the final straight between the five qualifiers. Ultimately it was Lover Boy Index which notched its first win in the last fourteen months by about a couple of lengths from Affe Fager, with Madador Knick, Magnific As and newcomer Love Heart also making it to the final.
In the other classes’ semi-finals we also saw a number of horses taking their first win after quite some time. The Silver class semi-finals were won by Ironbar (also at its first win in fourteen months), whilst Delvin Brodde (second consecutive and seasonal win) and Nicole L.H. (first win in Malta) won the Bronze class semi-finals, with Emil Berbro (at its first win in eighteen months) and Dollar As (first win in nine months) taking the honours in the Copper class.
Interestingly both Gold class races had close finishes over a very long 3,140m distance. These resulted in wins for Knockout Molar (third seasonal win in 1’18’7 per kilometre) from Magnifique Sablais, and L’Ideal de Fersan (second consecutive and seasonal win in 1’18’6 per kilometre) from Match de Bannes.
Doping test results
Recently the Malta Racing Club received two doping test results. Congratulations go to the owners and trainers of Nelson du Val and Nabab du Chatelet (both in the Dragonara Casino Tazza l-Kbira Final – 1st April), whose results confirmed that they were clean from prohibited substances.
Driver of the Month Award
The time has come once again to choose the winner of the Driver of the Month Award, this time for the month of April. This is not always an easy choice because there are typically various drivers who distinguish themselves.
It is fitting to acknowledge this further innovation introduced by the Malta Racing Club at the beginning of this year. An innovation that puts in the limelight the drivers’ critical role in the racing world and gives due recognition to that driver who most distinguishes himself in the particular month.
Naturally, no horse can win unless it has sufficient racing talent. However, this talent also needs to be merged with the driver’s acumen. The driver who often trains the particular horse and spends hours trying to understand the horse’s character, racing style and so many other factors that can contribute to its success.
He who also determines the race strategy, splitting the race based on the particular circumstances, on the horse’s characteristics and preferences, whilst looking for the right opening at the appropriate time and also keeping an eye on the other participants.
I am often fascinated watching drivers whether young, more experienced or veterans, all in the paddock between one race and another, chatting, watching races from behind the rails or on the television in the paddock room and commenting on specific aspects of the day’s races. They form a community. Although there is healthy competition between them, they also harbour a strong sense of reciprocal respect.
Those who have been successful on the day are typically more cheerful, whilst others may not be so satisfied with their and their charges’ performances. Naturally there are inevitably good days and bad days for everyone. They do their best but they are human and thus susceptible to error too, apart from the fact that the ultimate result also depends on the horse’s form and performance.
Despite our limited size and resources we are lucky to have many good, dedicated drivers who prove their worth not just locally but also in competition with their foreign colleagues. In awarding this prize, the recognition given to the winning driver also extends as recognition for the efforts of all fellow drivers.
At the same time, let us appreciate even small innovations like these which take thought and time to create and organise, for the good of our sport. A heartfelt thank you also to the monthly sponsors and to the racing journalists and experts who are consulted by the MRC in making the monthly selection, and who all contribute to making such initiatives a reality.
We wish you all two exciting meetings in the coming days.