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POKER STAR faces off with United States-bred UPPA TUNE at 1300 metres in the Eileen Cliggott Memorial, the first-ever meeting between the two quickest horses in training at Caymanas Park.
DaCosta's POKER STAR is eyeing a third-straight trophy race victory and will be sternly tested by UPPA TUNE, who will be out for the first time since the Diamond Mile on December 5.
POKER STAR landed the November 14 Caribbean Sprint and avoided the Diamond Mile won by stablemate SEEKING MY DREAM.
UPPA TUNE, being a foreign-bred, was not eligible for the Caribbean Sprint but had run his heart out at 1400 metres in October's 1400-metre Gold Cup won by PERFECT NEIGHBOUR.
In the Gold Cup, UPPA TUNE was chased off the lead by DaCosta's FORTUNEONEHUNDRED in splits of 23.1, 44.3 and 1:09.3, leaving him on fumes when SEEKING MY DREAM came calling.
At 1300 metres, UPPA TUNE is far more effective and has worked brilliantly in what will be a bid to make very post a winning one.
However, POKER STAR has matured into a top-class sprinter, recording super-fast times in his last three victories. His 1:17.2 for 1300 metres was followed by 1:11.0 and 1:05.2 for 1200 and 1100 metres, respectively.
In addition, he reports six pounds lighter than UPPA TUNE, which will be crucial in the final half furlong where every ounce will count.
Though UPPA TUNE is lightning quick, he has never won a race with company on his shoulder coming off the final turn, which is exactly where POKER STAR should be after the first half mile.
Omar Walker is aboard POKER STAR for Wayne DaCosta as regular rider Robert Halledeen is on the second day of a two-meet ban.
Philip Feanny's CAMPESINO is the only other threat to POKER STAR in the seven-horse field. However, he yet to find a way around DaCosta's runner in two meetings. Allowing POKER STAR five pounds in November's Caribbean Sprint, CAMPESINO was easily brushed by the younger horse in a three-length win.
In their rematch for the 1100-0metre St Catherine Cup on January 2, the handicapper bumped POKER STAR to 57.0 kilos, three pounds heavier than CAMPESINO, an eight-pound weight swing in his favour. In addition, Feanny sent BUZZ NIGHTMARE to keep POKER STAR's company on the lead.
However, the tag team was cut to shreds as POKER STAR chased BUZZ NIGHTMARE, got rid of him off the turn and repelled CAMPESINO's last-furlong charge to win by a length in 1:05.3.
POKER STAR returns six pounds lighter and fresher than CAMPESINO, who appeared a bit jaded and over-raced when losing at a mile to LONG RUNNING TRAIN on January 23, his fourth consecutive second-place finish - all tough races.