Bank on Further And Beyond in Ja Cup
HORSE-OF-THE-YEAR honours, a three-way claim to bragging rights and a hotly contested trainers' title race are all on the line in Saturday's nine-and-half furlong Jamaica Cup, which has had a build-up fraught with the unexpected.
From BILLY WHIZZ' rearing and throwing the Tack Room Trophy at the gate to FURTHER AND BEYOND's rider losing his irons in the Gold Cup, handing the event to none other than his former stablemate, St Leger and Jamaica Derby winner, CALCULUS, the Jamaica Cup drama also pits the young Turks against topweight KING ARTHUR, who lays claim as the ruling two-turn monarch.
Should either of two-time defending champion Anthony Nunes or leader Jason DaCosta land the $6 million Jamaica Cup, which has a winner's purse worth $3.27 million, the trainers' title race will be over, bar the shouting, which will be loud, whichever way the pendulum falls.
DaCosta has a fearsome threesome - evergreen 11-year-old HOVER CRAFT, much-improved BILLY WHIZZ and KING ARTHUR - whereas Nunes' main hope of two entrants must be with FURTHER AND BEYOND, considering ONEOFAKIND is out for the second time off a four-month lay-up.
CALCULUS, the spoiler, has the soundest Horse-of-the-Year credentials among the lot, which would be sealed should he pull off another upset, having been FURTHER AND BEYOND's worst nightmare since changing ownership and moving from Anthony Nunes to Gary Subratie.
Handicaps should be the winner, but rider tactics and racing luck could turn the race on its head. On paper, FURTHER AND BEYOND at 115lb, sitting level with BILLY WHIZZ, while in receipt of six and 11lb, from CALCULUS and KING ARTHUR, respectively, should make Nunes' runner the winner.
In the Derby, FURTHER AND BEYOND came off the home turn like a house on fire and was a length clear of BILLY WHIZZ and CALCULUS, after 11 furlongs, before tiring a half-furlong out in his first race without the visor.
An almost nine-length winner on his return in September, FURTHER AND BEYOND clocked 1:31.4 for seven and a half furlongs, beating EXCESSIVE FORCE, before his ill-fated Gold Cup run, finishing second to CALCULUS after Christopher Mamdeen lost his stirrup five and a half furlongs out.
CALCULUS returning at 121lb, drawn widest in the 11-horse field heading into the sharp clubhouse turn, while allowing near-rail FURTHER AND BEYOND six pounds, puts Subratie's runner at an almost six-length disadvantage entering the backstretch.
KING ARTHUR lugged 126lb around the park with success, against his older peers and CALCULUS, in September's 10-furlong Menudo, beating CRIMSON and HOVER CRAFT. However, in the Gold Cup, KING ARTHUR flattened badly after trying to take the fight to FURTHER AND BEYOND, who was running without his rider's legs in the stirrups, an underwhelming performance, which allowed CALCULUS to sweep by and eventually overhaul his old rival.
Returning five pounds heavier, KING ARTHUR may be in his backyard on the route course but weight stops trains, especially when your main rivals are younger and quicker, giving FURTHER AND BEYOND every chance to steal a march down the backstretch and hang tough up the lane.