A new racing season starts this Sunday 19th January, with the second meeting then following a week later, on Sunday 26th January. Both meetings start at 1.30pm and involve eight races this week and seven next week. All of these are reserved for trotters and are over the short 2,140m distance.
After a month of December filled with championships and finals, we start the season on a more sober note, with two sets of “normal” races as we all start following the horses’ progress before the start of the first championships.
The key attractions of these two meetings are two races for Premier class trotters, one in each meeting with 13 participants in each.
As is the case for all the races in these meetings, it will be interesting to follow the form of those horses which had a good season last year as well as of those from which we may perhaps have expected more.
In the season’s first Premier class race, we find six time winner last season Midnight Passion, the winner of the Premier class Owners’ race in the last race meeting P.A. Surprise (at the time making its debut), Equestrian Festival Premier class final runner-up Vejby Boom and third placed Madam di Poggio, Made In Hoff coming from a win and a runner-up place, Nitesco d’Antony with a runner-up place and a win in its last three outings, Orion du Vaumicel which participated in the Prix de Vincennes final after two consecutive places, Zalgado Transs R which participated in the President’s Cup final and all the other extremely valid trotters.
Then next week the Premier class race is reserved for those horses with the highest handicap points in Malta. These include some of last year’s most exciting performers such as Tazza l-Kbira winner Nabab du Chatelet, three time winners Sultan November and Lage, double winner Oran (fourth placed in the Equestrian Festival Premier class final), 2012 Sette Giugno Cup winner Zilver Boko, Prix de Vincennes and VOB Cup finalists Oltedo de Rieux (third in the Prix de Vincennes) and Ourasi Diams and all the other quality horses.
This race has the added attraction of three newcomers, all of which are French, i.e. 11 year olds Plastic, Poulot des Cinty and Power of Love.
Two of them are registered with the highest handicap points for newcomers and coincidentally they happen to be half-brothers, with their sire in both cases being French stallion Kiwi.
One is Poulot des Cinty, winner of Euro398,050 overseas, the result of 18 wins and numerous places and with a best time of 1’13’0 per kilometre on 2,000m made in 2012. In its last 6 months of racing in France, this horse raced in Corsica, with some optimal results, i.e. four wins and nine other top three placings from 18 races, although its most prestigious career win was probably that registered at Vincennes, in March 2012, in the Prix de Montsoreau (Euro62,000 total prize-money) on 2,700m.
The other is Plastic, winner of Euro377,470 overseas, thanks to 8 wins and many places and with a best time of 1’12’4 per kilometre on 1,609m made in 2010. This horse participated in various races in France having prize-money of Euro80,000 or more. Among its best performances, we find five consecutive outings in January – March 2011, in which it was runner-up four times (including in the prestigious Prix Jules Roucayrol – Euro80,000 prize-money) and also placed fourth, all at Cagnes Sur Mer on long distances of 2925m and 2950m, and registered a good time of 1’13’6 per kilometre.
We also have three extremely balanced Gold class races, one in the first meeting and the other two in next week’s meeting.
This week’s race features the rare attraction of no less than six newcomers, i.e. 8 year olds Obelix Molgard (DK), Obelix Cream (DK) and Mival Tondi (IT), Swede 9 year old Means Nothing and 10 year olds Quattro du Gite (FR) and Wies Buitenzorg (NL).
In addition, we also find horses coming from good performances at the end of last season, such as Pirate d’Urzy – four consecutive places, Partner Blue, Quel Gibus and Quintet du Vivier which all placed last month, and various other interesting horses.
Next week’s first race features many popular trotters, including Petit Pierricais, winner of last month’s Prix de Cabourg, Simb Tyrant winner of an Owners’ Gold class race in the season’s last meeting, Quipson, winner of a good race last month, Niky de Memartin, Paleo des Cascades, Rapide du Matin, Energy Launcher and Ouf Boy, which were all runners-up in December and various other extremely valid horses.
The final Gold class race is reserved for horses with handicap points which put them on the doorstep of the Premier class. These include last month’s Prix d’Enghien winner Oolong, Equestrian Festival Gold class final winner (five wins last year) Charm Hammering, runner-up Phenix de la Roque and third placed Power Night Star, Premier Avril coming from a win and a place, Prince Gaillard with five consecutive places in its last outings, Zandina Boshoeve with a win and a place in its last three races and eight other extremely competitive horses.
The remaining races are two for the Copper class, three for the Bronze class and five others reserved for Silver class horses.
Apart from those in the Premier and Gold classes, we also have five other newcomers in these races, i.e. Swede 6 year old Alfa Dream and French 10 year old Quaimoro in the Silver class, French 8 year old Seigneur du Dropt and Swedish 10 year old Victory Pointer in the Bronze class and Danish 6 year old Running Hope in the Copper class.
And so, nearly three weeks have already passed since we were all wishing each other a happy new year in the festive mood of the last meeting. The 2013 season has been consigned to history and we are now at the start of another season; another one promising to reserve for us more exciting and hard-fought races. As always however, let us never lose sight of the most important values, particularly sportsmanship and safety!
The last seasonal race meeting was held on the 29th December and this was undoubtedly another entertaining meeting held in a festive atmosphere typical of that time of year.
The key attraction was the VOB Grand Final on the rather long 2,640m distance, pitting against each other the best performers in the Prix de Vincennes and the President’s Cup finals held earlier in the month.
Ohime Mag took the lead after the first 100m of the said final, followed closely by Cloria Victis and Orgueil de Nganda. Cloria Victis went in front with 2 laps to go but Gently di Poggio took the lead with around a mile to go. However Cloria Victis continued to imprint a fast pace on this race, accelerating to take over once again after just another 100m or so.
In the meantime, Okilaibo had gone up from the back of the pack to locate itself in joint second place, two wide from Gently di Poggio. Then with 700m to go, it went up to second place on its own, on the outside of Cloria Victis. The situation remained the same until the final straight, with Cloria Victis entering the straight first followed by Okilaibo.
But the final straight kept everyone on tiptoes as these two horses thundered down the straight head-to-head at incredible speed, with Okilaibo driven by Julian Farrugia managing to have the better of its rival in the last 20 metres to claim its sixth seasonal win and its third Premier class championship, just over a head in front of the valiant Cloria Victis, followed by Ohime Mag, Poppes Fighter and Midnight Passion. The first three horses all made the joint seasonal best on the 2,640m distance of 1’14’2 per kilometre, the best time on this distance in the last five and a half years.
Messrs Raymond Schembri, Twanny Scicluna and Patrick Cachia, on behalf of the racecourse’s bookmakers, sponsors of the VOB Cup, presented the prizes to the owners/ drivers of the winning and placing horses.
The remaining races were all owners’ trot races, i.e. races in which the participating horses were all ridden by their owners, with the race distance being the shorter 2,140m.
Newcomer Playboy C.H. took the rails and went in front in the Premier class race, followed two-wide by Shakira Trot with the other newcomer P.A. Surprise following the race leader in the inner lane in third place. The situation remained the same until the backstraight which saw Shakira Trot going in front followed by P.A. Surprise.
And this was to be P.A. Surprise’s day as it accelerated to take the lead 350m from the end and then sprinted all the way to the post to dominate the final straight and have a dream debut winning by around four and a half lengths from the fast-finishing Arnie Sensation, followed by Pro Shop and Shakira Trot in 1’15’6 per kilometre. In a commendable gesture, P.A. Surprise’s owner Lorraine Cunningham, donated the prize-money to the Action for Breast Cancer Foundation.
Versace Boko took the lead after about 400m in the Gold class race, a lead which it had to forego shortly before the start of the last lap, when Quipson took over. Various participants closed in onto the race leader in the last 400m and among these it was Simb Tyrant which produced the best final sprint coming three wide to take its first win in Malta by a couple of lengths from Rapide du Matin, followed by Happiness Photo and Oscarina in a time of 1’15’5 per kilometre.
In the first Silver class race, Milano du Gite took the rails early on followed two-wide by Newman, with the race maintaining this situation throughout. In the last 900m Milano du Gite increased its pace and took a healthier two-length lead, with this horse accelerating further in the last 300m to dominate the final straight and claim its second seasonal win by nearly three lengths from the same Newman, followed by Orio de Marancourt and Quo Vadis Phedo in another time of 1’15’5 per kilometre.
Paolin de Bannes went in front after about 300m from the start of the second Silver class race, leading a compact group until the start of the last half lap, when Daring Daylight came strongly on the outer lanes, entering first into the final straight.
However the final straight saw an impressive sprint from Command Coger running five wide with this horse beating all opposition and going in front with 50 metres to go, and claiming its 6th seasonal win in 1’17’5 per kilometre, a length and a half ahead of the fast finishing Mind Your Head, followed by Daring Daylight and Paolin de Bannes.
The last race of the season saw Keystone Chad taking a healthy early lead which it managed to maintain until the backstraight when Law Suit went four wide, managed to advance one position after another and finally went in front with 600m to go.
Into the final straight it was Law Suit ahead of Darco As with the latter going two wide to challenge the race leader coming head to head and finally going in front in the middle of the final straight to earn its first seasonal win from the fast-finishing Max Galbe, followed by Law Suit and Pittacos in 1’17’4 per kilometre.
During the last seasonal meeting, prizes were also presented to the winners of the season’s key Malta Racing Club awards. Thus, prizes were presented to Noel Baldacchino, as the Best Driver of the year, Rodney Gatt as the Best Under 25 Driver, Michael Sultana as the best jockey, the owners of Andri Boko and Timolin, being the most consistent trotter and most consistent thoroughbred respectively, with a special prize also going to Charles Grech, owner of veteran (17 year old) thoroughbred Managing Director (also present at the racetrack for the occasion), the only horse to have won the prestigious Mediterranean Derby for five consecutive times between 2002 and 2006.
Doping test results
Over the last couple of weeks, the Malta Racing Club received 13 further doping test results. Congratulations go to the owners and trainers of:
(a) Gently di Poggio, The Bad Rock, Cloria Victis and Midnight Passion, all relative to the President’s Cup final,
(b) Owens Kin, Polytain, Petit Pierricais, Oolong, Ohime Mag and Okilaibo, all relative to the SECF French trotters’ championships finals, and
(c) Okilaibo, Cloria Victis and Ohime Mag, all relative to the VOB Grand Final,
the results of all of which confirmed that they were clean from prohibited substances. These complete all the doping test results for 2013.
Driver of the Month Award - December
The Driver of the Month for December is Ronald Cassar, who won this award on the basis of his wins in that month’s Prix de Vincennes semi-final and final, both on Ohime Mag, as well as the third place earned on the same horse in the VOB Grand Final. He is also commended for his gesture and that of the other owner of this horse (Mr M. Lautier) who offered the prize-money relative to the Prix de Vincennes final to Puttinu Cares.
We wholeheartedly thank Equine Supreme for once again kindly supporting this initiative by also sponsoring this edition.
Clifferty Calleja at Vincennes We convey our best wishes to driver Clifferty Calleja who will represent Malta in the Prix de Saint- Claude, a race which is being nicknamed the European Trophy for Amateurs. This race will be held in the legendary racecourse of Vincennes, in Paris, for amateur drivers coming from UET member countries with a maximum of 16 participants nominated by their respective country. The race distance is the short 2,100m with a total prize-money of Euro16,000, and it is open for horses aged between 7 and 9 years whos winnings do not reach Euro181,000. The horse allocated to each participant is drawn by lot. All the best Clifferty, in what will undoubtedly be a difficult and competitive race due to the quality of the participants hailing from so many European countries with a great tradition.
Facts and Figures 2013 (Part 1): Trot newcomers
Clifferty Calleja at Vincennes
We convey our best wishes to driver Clifferty Calleja who will represent Malta in the Prix de Saint- Claude, a race which is being nicknamed the European Trophy for Amateurs. This race will be held in the legendary racecourse of Vincennes, in Paris, for amateur drivers coming from UET member countries with a maximum of 16 participants nominated by their respective country.
The race distance is the short 2,100m with a total prize-money of Euro16,000, and it is open for horses aged between 7 and 9 years whos winnings do not reach Euro181,000. The horse allocated to each participant is drawn by lot.
All the best Clifferty, in what will undoubtedly be a difficult and competitive race due to the quality of the participants hailing from so many European countries with a great tradition.
As we start a new season, we naturally also start archiving the one that has just ended. In doing so, we get the base figures to which we may then compare those of the coming season (2014).
In terms of newcomers, we can say that 2013 was a good year. We had 229 trot newcomers (we will examine thoroughbreds in another article), which is 18 more than those which made their debut in 2012 (although also 24 less than the superb 2011 figure). This represents the eighth best ever number of newcomers in Maltese racing history, undoubtedly a good result.
Interestingly, the figure for the first phase of the season was a low 142 but the second phase was remarkably good with no less than 87 newcomers in just 3 and a half months, thus more than making up for the rather poor first phase.
Once again, Maltese horse-owners showed a strong preference for geldings, with some 76% of newcomers being geldings (even if these were down from the 86.6% of 2011 and the 78.2% of 2012). Stallions accounted for 8.3% (down from 14.2% the year before), but the most significant indicator in this sector was the clear revival in the number of mares, with a stronger preference of owners in their respect, i.e. 15.7% or more than double the 7.6% of 2012.
Countries of origin
French and Swedish newcomers were once more the most numerous. France accounted for around 55.9% of newcomers (remarkably retaining the same levels as the previous two years, i.e. 55% in 2012 and 55.75% in 2011) – interestingly, one newcomer was re-exported to France, whilst Sweden accounted for around 23.6% (down from 29.9% in 2012 and 32% in 2011). A total of 79.5% between these two countries.
However, the most interesting development in this respect is the quite material increase registered by the remaining countries, up to 20.5%, showing a clear upward trend from the 15.1% of 2012 and the 12.25% of the year before.
Similarly to 2012, we had 8 other countries represented among our newcomers, mainly Italy and the Netherlands with 11 newcomers each (both countries registering a good increase), followed by Denmark and Germany with 7 newcomers each (these remaining broadly on the same levels as the previous year), with the remaining 11 newcomers being distributed among Finland (5), the USA (3), Belgium (2) and Austria (1). Differently from previous years, we had no Norwegian newcomers although we had some of other nationalities which used to race in Norway.
As in 2011 and 2012, the most popular newcomers’ class continued to be the Silver class with 41.5%, an increase from the 34.6% of 2012. This was followed by the Gold class with 21.8% and the Premier class with 21.4% (down from 30.8% and 28.4% respectively registered in 2012.
The Bronze class also registered a good increase in newcomers with some 11.8% (up from 5.2% in 2012), with the same also being the case for the Copper class at 3.5% (up from around 1% in 2012).
Apart from some minor effect of the re-adjustment of winnings entry levels last year, this seems to indicate that more horses are being imported with lower overseas winnings (and presumably at more affordable prices) than was the case in previous years. Indeed the Silver, Bronze and Copper classes together accounted for some 56.8% of all newcomers (up by 16% from the 40.8% of 2012) compared to the 43.2% (noticeably down from 59.2% the previous year) of the senior Premier and Gold classes.
Most newcomers (51.9% - slightly down from 54.5% in 2012) made their debut as 9 (30.1%, at the same level of the 29.4% of 2012) or 10 year olds (21.8%, down from 25.1% in 2012). Around 14.9% were 8 year olds, 12.2% were aged 7 and 9.6% were 11 year olds.
Interestingly, the “extremely young” 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds accounted for some 10.5% between them (the remaining 0.9% refers to 12 and 13 year olds), which added to the percentage of 7 year olds results in a total of some 22.7% of newcomers were “young” horses of between 3 and 7 years old, materially up from the 13.7% of the previous year.
This indicates that apart from having in general less winnings overseas than their counterparts the previous year, trotters imported in 2013 also tended to be younger in age, thus hopefully having longer careers in Malta.
What will 2014 reserve for us in terms of this important indicator of the status of our trotting community, with new horses being the backbone of active racehorses for the coming years? We will wait and see as the season unfolds.
We wish you an exciting start to the new season 2014.