No love for 'Trinni' connections
By Marlon Miller
Story Created: May 3, 2012 at 10:59 PM ECT
Story Updated: May 3, 2012 at 10:59 PM ECT
A CAUSE for celebration among Trinidad and Tobago race fans is being treated with disdain in certain quarters here in the United States, as the countdown to the 2012 Kentucky Derby gathers pace.
As T&T turfites look forward to tomorrow's 138th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs with added interest due to the participation of Trinniberg—trained and owned by the father-son combination of 72-year-old Bisnath Parboo and 47-year-old Shivananda Parbhoo, who moved to the US from Trinidad in 1990--some experts are questioning the logic of running the speedball colt in the 1 ¼-mile Derby.
(It should be explained here that Bisnath and Shivananda's last names are spelt differently due to a clerical error by US immigration when they were entering the country.)
Washington Post columnist Andrew Beyer—renowned for developing the Beyer speed figures used to rate the performances of racehorses, with the higher the figure the better the horse—takes a dim view of top sprinter Trinniberg, who has never raced beyond seven furlongs, running against the best three-year-olds in America in such a gruelling contest.
Beyer, whose column was reproduced in Wednesday's Daily Racing Form, the bible of US racing, wrote:
"(Shivananda) Parbhoo envisions Trinniberg using his superior quickness to take the early lead in the Derby, while the jockeys on his rivals refrain from getting into a suicidal duel with him.
'They're going to give him the lead and hope he's going to stop,' Parbhoo predicted. 'I don't know how long he can go,' he conceded, 'but I have to give the horse a chance.'
Racing fans regularly root for low-profile owners and trainers who take a chance on beating the big boys in the Kentucky Derby. They should relish the story of a trainer making his first mark in the game after the age of 70. But fans who understand the basics of the game will deplore the Parbhoos for abdicating their responsibilities to their horse.
Any athlete, human or equine, needs proper conditioning to undertake a tough physical challenge for the first time. There are 137 years of evidence to prove that a three-year-old needs to get the conditioning for the Derby by racing farther than a mile multiple times. In Saturday's 20-horse line-up, 19 of the prospective runners made their last start at 1 1/8 miles. And then there's Trinniberg.
Even if he were cut out to be a Derby horse, he couldn't succeed with this lack of preparation. But Trinniberg has never looked like a potential Derby horse (except to his owner). He acts like a pure sprinter and is bred like a pure sprinter. (His father, Teuflesberg, was a sprinter-miler who tired and finished 17th in the 2007 Derby).
An undertrained human athlete who imprudently enters a marathon at least has the option to quit when he runs out of gas. He doesn't have somebody whipping him to keep going past the point of exhaustion. Parbhoo's decision to run Trinniberg in the Derby could compromise the future of a colt with the potential to be a star sprinter.
But handicappers cannot ignore Trinniberg as they might ignore other long shots in the field. A single sprinter can change the dynamics of the Derby by going so fast that everyone close to him becomes a victim of the fast pace--even though rival jockeys are trying to restrain their mounts. This has been a frequent Derby scenario. In 1986 the brilliant sprinter Groovy flew the first half-mile in 45.20 seconds. Not only did he finish last, but every horse within 14 lengths of him at the half-mile mark wound up being trounced.
A super-fast pace by Trinniberg could affect rivals such as Hansen, Bodemeister, and Take Charge Indy, who have all scored front-running victories in Grade One stakes and who will be near the lead in the Derby. Parbhoo's quixotic Derby venture could prove to be as bad for these contenders as it is for his own horse," Beyer concluded.
The lure of the Derby—from Trinidad to Timbuktu— is often irresistible once you have a half-decent three-year-old, especially for owners and trainers who hardly ever get the chance to take on the sport's upper echelon, but I have to agree with Beyer.
Trinninberg, a 50-1 shot, has the makings of a top-class sprinter—Beyer noted that the Parbhoos' colt "once ran a quarter-mile in a breathtaking 20.96 seconds"—and his owner-trainer should have kept him on that path, despite all the hullabaloo surrounding the Derby, which has a US$2 million purse.
All will be revealed just after 6.24 tomorrow evening, whether the Parbhoos made a big mistake or they proved the doubters wrong. Whatever transpires, we can only wish them good luck and hope Trinniberg comes out in one piece.
Of the main contenders, it is very hard to separate 4-1 morning line favourite Bodemeister and 9-2 second choice Union Rags and I'm leaning towards the latter, while in today's Kentucky Oaks, I like the well-fancied Grace Hall, with Jemima's Pearl on the improve.
The Derby may currently be on everyone's mind, especially here in Ocala—which is home to the second largest horse population in the United States after Kentucky, and where above-mentioned Trinniberg was sold at one of the Ocala Breeders' Sales (OBS) Company's two-year-olds in training auction—but earlier this week, the "match of the century" caught the eye of some Americans.
Not all of them, but Monday's possible title-deciding Premier League clash between defending champions Manchester United and arch-rivals Manchester City was shifted from ESPN2 to ESPN, the sports network's flagship channel, such was the significance of the game.
For neutrals like me, it was a chance to appreciate a good contest between the Red Devils, who have such a fanatical worldwide following because their plane crashed and killed half the team more than 50 years ago—which is what a die-hard and rather heartless Liverpool supporter once told me—and their opponents, whose owners are doing their best to buy a championship, hiring what ESPN commentator Ian Darke described as "mercenaries".
It certainly wasn't a classic, but at least City kept the title race going to the final match of the season next weekend and didn't hand United another Premier League crown on a platter.
The neck-and-neck race will make for interesting viewing over the next ten days, back on ESPN2, of course. But at least the Americans are slowly coming around to appreciate the "beautiful game".
It took them awhile, but better late than never.