Mon | Sep 23, 2019

Porter’s ‘Diamond’ to ‘Sparkle’ today

Published:Saturday | August 24, 2019 | 12:23 AMAinsley Walters/Gleaner Writer
STRANGER DANGER, one of the horses Sparkle Diamond will have to get the better of to qualify for November’s Diamond Mile, at Caymanas Park today.
STRANGER DANGER, one of the horses Sparkle Diamond will have to get the better of to qualify for November’s Diamond Mile, at Caymanas Park today.

ALL eyes will be on the tote board after this afternoon’s ninth race to see how fast SPARKLE DIAMOND completes seven and a half furlongs among overnight allowance horses as he begins his quest to qualify for November’s Diamond Mile.

Having already bankrolled $1.5 million from four starts, SPARKLE DIAMOND, based on new rules, is nowhere closer to qualifying for the Diamond Mile than a horse who has never earned a dollar in its life.

Unbeaten in his last three races, including clocking the joint-fastest five and a half furlong time this season, pulling a train while doing so, SPARKLE DIAMOND’s earnings towards Diamond Mile qualification starts this afternoon, according to this year’s rules, which disavow purses not only beneath overnight allowance, but also below seven furlongs at the level, a biased slap in the face to owners of horses, who would have qualified on a straight-earnings basis.

In the race to make the Diamond Mile, roughly two months away, SPARKLE DIAMOND’s options after this afternoon are to win two open allowance races, as quickly as possible, or try beating STRANGER DANGER in the Invitational Mile on October 5 for automatic entry, having already opted out of next week’s win-and-you’re-in Gold Cup.

With the Gold Cup handicaps released on Wednesday and STRANGER DANGER coming in at 119lb, not the “pretty light” trainer Wayne DaCosta had expected, it again brings into question the method used to designate weight in grade one, in the absence of a published rating of all horses, consistently maintained from past performances, not a number put together based on entrants for a particular race.

In other words, in a proper rating and handicap system, horses such as SPARKLE DIAMOND and STRANGER DANGER would have been racing against like company long ago, a malady that has now reared its head with STRANGER DANGER now rated seven pounds below his stablemate. It, therefore, begs the question, why are superior horses such as STRANGER DANGER, and now SPARKLE DIAMOND, being allowed to race against far inferior horses, despite their obvious ability?

Last time out, SPARKLE DIAMOND broke slow, giving away lengths at five furlongs straight, but was in front before entering the main track in opening splits of 22.3. It’s not often that a horse misses the break at five furlongs straight but surges to the lead before the flag man gets out of the way, which puts the American-bred in a different class.

The Diamond Mile ‘tweak’, which came about because of one horse’s almost-missed participation last year, has now returned to haunt SPARKLE DIAMOND, who, by the new stipulations, is deemed penniless entering this afternoon’s race, though holding $1.5 million earned this year.

However, trainer Ralph Porter probably need not worry because the Diamond Mile stipulations have so far ruled out other horses, including runners-up in classic races, so SPARKLE DIAMOND might easily qualify, even with sparse ‘earnings’.