Two race-meetings will be held at the Marsa racecourse over the next week or so. The first will be held tomorrow Friday 21st September (Independence Day public holiday), followed by another meeting on Sunday 30th September. This week’s meeting will start at 7pm whilst the next meeting sees a return to Sunday afternoon racing, with the first race starting at 2pm.
Each of these meetings includes eight races, which are all trot events except for one flat race in this week’s meeting. The Cassar Petroleum Autumn Championship heats will be held over a 2,140m distance, the other trot races will have a longer 2,640m distance, whilst the flat race will be over the sprint 1,250m distance.
The highlight of these meetings is the start of the first championship of the second phase of the season, the Cassar Petroleum Autumn Championship, in the 30th September meeting. Forty six Premier class trotters are spread into four heats, the first six from each heat qualifying for the semi-finals being held in mid-October.
The participants include various popular horses such as six-time winner and Sette Giugno Cup winner Zilver Boko, five time winner and VOB Cup winner Label Chouan, last year’s Autumn Championship winner and revelation Livi Cantona, last week’s winners Major Chaleonnais (winner of the Premier class Summer Championship 2011) and Quick Cape, Shakira Trot winner of two of its three races in Malta, Arnie Sensation, Joker de Choisel, Mont Cenis Honey and Think Yatzee which won various championships between them, and various others.
We also have six newcomers in these heats, i.e. Gjedo’ du Louvre (IT), Oncle Sam (FR), St Andrew L.B. (SE), Sultan November (GER), Superior As (GER) and Versace Boko (SE).
Two of these are registered with the highest number of points for newcomers, i.e. 9 year olds Gjedo’ du Louvre and Versace Boko.
Gjedo’ du Louvre is an Italian stallion which has raced in countries such as Italy, France and Sweden, winning 18 races and various places, having overseas winnings of Euro145,995 and a best time of 1’11’3 per kilometre. Its best performances over the last year include a win over a 2,140m distance at Kalmar racecourse (Sweden), a runner-up position at Cesena racecourse (Italy) over 1,660m and a timing of 1’11’4 per kilometre over a 1,609m distance at Cagnes Sur Mer (France).
Versace Boko is a Swedish gelding whose last race in Sweden took place 11 months ago. It won 11 races and various places, has overseas winnings of SEK1,114,657 and a best time of 1’12’7 per kilometre (twice) over a 1,640m distance. Among its best performances in its last races, we find two fourth places over a 2,680m distance and one of its best times of 1’12’7 per kilometre, all between April and June 2011.
Some highly contested heats are anticipated with both winners and qualifiers being extremely difficult to predict.
We also have three balanced Gold class races, two in this week’s meeting and the other in next week’s. These also involve some popular names such as those of recent winners Little Nick, Pouvoir Magique and Ygor of Pass, other horses which used to race in the Premier class until recently, such as Natif de Salvi and Nobel de Grimoult, French newcomers Odubai and Ongle d’Or and other well-known trotters.
The other races consist of four for the Silver class, three for the Bronze class and the remaining one reserved for Copper class trotters.
The following newcomers are scheduled to make their debut in these races, i.e. Octobre En Fete (FR) and Phebus de la Cour (FR) in the Silver class, K.Prinsen (SE), Naya Hanover (DK) and Silvan T.T. (SE) in the Bronze class, and Lotus Millpond (SE) in the Copper class.
We also see the resumption of flat racing, with a Class A race featuring five horses, aged between 5 and 8 years and hailing from Germany, Sweden and the USA. Nearly all of them have not raced for the last six months; it will be interesting to see which of them are currently in the best form after such a long break.
Two meetings of “normal” races and then the start of one of Malta’s prestigious championships, the Cassar Petroleum Autumn Championship. This will certainly kick-start the second phase of the season and give centre-stage to those horses which are already in good form, even if we are merely about to start Autumn.
The main attractions of last Friday’s meeting, the first after the summer break and reserved for trot races over a 2,140m distance, were the two Premier class races. These were both won by seasoned horses making their return to the track after quite a number of months of absence.
In the first, Quick Cape took an early lead and maintained it all the way, but it had to struggle quite hard to resist Ouragan d’Any’s strong attack in the final straight. Quick Cape, which had not raced for eleven months, won by about a length from the same Ouragan d’Any, followed by Power Night Star and Gentle Way, in a time of 1’17’9 per kilometre.
In the second, Major Chaleonnais took the lead midway through the race but it had to struggle hard to contain the attacks of both Bonus Kall and Veikko Hornline in the final metres. Major Chaleonnais, which had also been absent from the track for nine months, ultimately won by about half a length from the same Bonus Kall and Veikko Hornline in that order, with Count of Life claiming the fourth place. The winner’s time was 1’16’3 per kilometre.
A strong challenge in the final straight between Novak and Pouvoir Magique, led to the latter’s win by little more than a head in the first Gold class race, thus claiming its third seasonal win in a time of 1’16’9 per kilometre. Rich Kemp and No Comprendo followed the two front runners in that order quite some distance away.
In the second, Little Nick seized an early lead and maintained it throughout, so that it also took its third seasonal win, resisting newcomer Oh du Pestel’s strong attack to win by about a length in a time of 1’16’6 per kilometre. Energy Launcher and Jobie Lucky followed in that order also a number of lengths behind.
The meeting’s best time (1’16’2 per kilometre) was registered in the Silver class by Ygor of Pass at its first win in Malta, beating runner-up Orage du Pont by around a couple of lengths. Newcomer Daring Daylight and Oregon de la Foret claimed the remaining places.
Pile Ou Face also took its first win in Malta in another Silver class race, when it led practically from start to finish ending over two lengths ahead of Notre Joyeux, followed by Bankiren and newcomer Mr Snowman. The winner’s time was that of 1’17’0 per kilometre.
Finally Onwards Star claimed its second seasonal win in the last Silver class race in a time of 1’18’6 per kilometre, thanks to a strong sprint which started around 400m before the end. At the finish line it was around a length ahead of Darco As, followed by Prince Brilliance and Lucas Ness.
The remaining races were won by Orio de Marancourt (second seasonal win) and Marco Barbes (first win in the last two years) in the Bronze class and Icare de Jemma (third seasonal win) in the Copper class.
European Professional Drivers’ Championship
Noel Baldacchino represented Malta in the UET (European Trotting Union) European Professional Drivers’ Championship held in Hamburg, Germany last weekend.
The competitors included some of Europe’s best drivers thus making it an extremely difficult experience for Noel, who despite trying his best was also quite unlucky. He finished in tenth place out of twelve competitors, with the winner being Enrico Bellei of Italy, followed by runner-up Bjorn Goop of Sweden and third placed Gerhard Mayr of Austria.
This notwithstanding, this was yet another very useful international experience for our Champion Driver and another occasion for our drivers to expose their talents at the highest European levels of competition.
Mediterranean Horse Racing Union’s drivers’ championship
Next Saturday 22nd September, Tony Demanuele will represent Malta in the last leg of this year’s Mediterranean Horse Racing Union’s drivers’ championship, which will be held in Maribor, Slovenia. Malta currently occupies the runner-up position in the overall standings trailing leaders Slovenia by no less than 10 points and is just 2 points ahead of third-placed Russia.
Whilst reaching Slovenia looks nearly impossible, it would be a notable achievement and another prestigious international result, if Malta were to ward off Russia’s challenge and hold on to its current runner-up position. We wish Tony Demanuele the best of luck in this tough international appointment; we are sure of his commitment to trying to achieve the best possible result.
In the summer heat
As I drive through Racecourse Street at noontime on a Saturday in August, I feel the urge to go for a stroll along that short, relatively narrow road. I have been away from that area for no less than three weeks!
Notwithstanding the boiling temperature, I park and walk out of my car into the heat. How different from normal is the atmosphere that meets my eyes!
Three dogs are lazing about and stretching in the shade behind the gate leading to the racecourse. None of them moves as I walk in.
The internal car parks are practically empty. The horse-riding school is on holiday and no happy children’s voices light up the area. A notice on the closed office door advises anyone interested that the racecourse was closed for a few weeks for maintenance.
I take a look around me – the main stand, the racecourse and the other familiar structures stare back at me. A plane is approaching to land at the airport a short distance away, but I can’t even hear the noise of its engines. The atmosphere is dead silent, like a ghost town in a Western movie.
No people, no horses – everyone seems to be sheltering from the heat. I walk up the ramp and into the road. One of the shops is open. No customers inside, but a car stops in front of it and the driver walks in for a quick errand.
Other shops are closed, some are still on shut-down and a few have notices mentioning the day of re-opening.
No activity is going on either in the block of buildings being built opposite the racecourse.
Most of the stables are closed, some even padlocked. Only one is open and I look eagerly inside. But there is no horse being prepared, with the owner just doing some cleaning up.
Where are the usual men sitting on chairs outside stables and bars some with a bird in a cage under their arms, chatting about horses and races?
I walk inside a licensed betting shop. An employee is sitting following a horse race overseas on one of the screens. But there are no customers.
Some of the bars are also open but there is barely anyone inside.
I walk on until I meet two sulkies facing one of the horse equipment shops – at least a familiar image. And then soon after, another sign of life – two men chatting in the shade provided by the racecourse wall, standing with one leg half-raised resting on the wall.
I turn back, demoralised at this lack of life.
Another man has taken a place in the shade with his back also resting against the racecourse wall. He is alone, wearing a singlet and shorts and with a bored look on his face. He yawns, stretches (reminding me of the dogs next to the racecourse gate) and raises half his top uncovering the lower part of his belly – must be a technique to reduce the effect of the heat!
I slowly make my way to the car. Another dog is fast asleep in a spot of shade on the pavement – I notice a kind breeze in that spot. I say to myself – “bright dog, it has chosen the coolest part of the road!”
A door opens and a man comes out of a house carrying a pail, throws some water into the street and quickly walks back inside.
I have given up on seeing any sign of a racehorse. Can the summer possibly transform the Mecca of Maltese horse-racing so much?
And then as I pass in front of the horse entry to the racecourse, a thoroughbred comes out, standing tall and proud, mounted by its jockey. I do not recognise the jockey but I wave to him just the same.
I smile – that horse and that jockey change my mood. I am satisfied that the passion for horses is still alive and if it still is notwithstanding the heat, then it can only get stronger!
I enter into the car – drenched with sweat after my short walk. As I drive off, I think of the different images of that road – in a few weeks’ time we will see a different picture, one full of life and activity, especially on race days.
No doubt, a short narrow road, but one which also gives its contribution to the different styles of life which characterise our country.
We wish you two spectacular meetings over the coming week.