By Alan Harris | 2/27/2011| Barbados Advocate
Will 2011 be the year that ace jockey Darryll Holland pilots a winner in the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup?
The 38-year-old Manchester-born Englishman is back for his third crack at the Caribbean’s most prestigious horse race, which runs off on March 5th at the Garrison Savannah.
However, this time the stakes are different for Holland, because this year he has not just one, but two outstanding horses to choose from. A luxury some would say, but it now poses a dilemma to the champion jockey – to play it conservative or go for broke.
His two choices this year are seven-year-old bay gelding John Brian – like Holland, back for his third try at the Gold Cup – and the sometimes underrated Reward Me, a four-year-old bay gelding.
Both are owned by five-time Gold Cup winner, Sir David Seale, and trained by champion trainer Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Deane, the first female trainer to saddle a Gold Cup winner (2007 – Whiskey for Me).
“I actually have two choices in John Brian or Reward Me,” Holland disclosed during an exclusive interview with the Barbados Advocate.
“To be honest I want to leave my decision for as late as possible. Entries and Final Declarations are on Thursday so I have until Wednesday evening to decide. There’s a week until the race and a week is a long time in a racehorse’s life. Anything can happen.”
Last year Holland was in control of the highly-regarded Areutalkintome, a star creole colt owned by Saffie Joseph Jr. After a disappointing mid-pack finish, Holland said he was eager to better his best-ever third place finish, which he recorded in 2009 aboard the Sir David Seale-owned Preach To Me.
“I’m keen to get a Gold Cup win,” he candidly said.
“Last year was a bit of a hit and miss. Things didn’t really pan out the way I had hoped and I couldn’t ride my race accordingly. I thought I was in with a real good shot[…with Areutalkintome]. He was probably the best ride I’ve ever had going in to the Gold Cup, but that’s horse racing as they say.”
Holland said he was pleased to be back riding for Sir David Seale. He also said he was impressed by the professional training setup which was run by Liz Deane.
“The setup is very professional. Richard (Seale) and Liz (Deane) pay close attention to every detail”, he said. “I quite like that. Obviously Liz’s record speaks for itself. She has been a champion trainer several times over. Its no fluke and I can see why.”
Holland is making a comeback to the sport after he detached his right collar bone during a race at Beverley, Yorkshire in May 2010. According to him, “its of no bother at all”.
“I had eight weeks off and I missed a whole bunch of racing. This is probably my first big race back. I’ve had plenty of races since then in the UK and its held up well so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.”
Turning his attention to the track itself, Holland said if it’s ‘hard’, John Brian will be favored; if it’s ‘soft’, Reward Me will be his pick.
“The track was looking a bit tired but it should be alright come race day,” he said. “If it’s hard, John Brian will be the horse for the race. Softer ground will suit Reward Me.”
Though Holland was of the opinion that this year’s field was not as strong as last year’s, he did think that local favorites Apostle and Show Me the Money were strong contenders.
“I think Show Me the Money and Apostle are the front runners. These horses know their way around the Savannah and they are tough animals. To be honest, besides one hiccup from Apostle, they always perform on the day. You always have to be weary of those horses.
“I’m not riding a front runner so I won’t be duelling for any lead anyway. I’ll let them carry on and hopefully they’ll have a fight for the lead with someone else. That way, the race will be set up perfect for me. I just really want to win this race and whoever I chose, I just hope he gives me a good ride.”
John Brian, who placed second to Pure Temptation in the 2008 Gold Cup, will be starting in Gate 6.
Reward Me is currently reserve No. 1.
Holland will be using the 2011 Sandy Lane Gold Cup as a precursor for the 2011 English racing season which begins at Doncaster on March 28th.
Holland on ‘John Brian’, 7yr bay gelding: “I’ve sat on him twice – Thursday morning for a canter and yesterday (Saturday). He is a big, strong horse and he was actually a bit keen yesterday. He is a horse that will probably be well placed. He’s not going to be too far forward or too far back. He’s a horse that travels up the field as the race wears on. He has good cruising speed and a slowly run race will not suit him..but normally, he likes to go forward.”
Holland on ‘Reward Me’, 4yr bay gelding: “He’s a big, imposing horse and he likes to get his toes in the ground. He’s such a heavy horse and on firm ground, he’d probably be like a cat on hot bricks. A surprise to most, he may just turn out to be the dark horse of this whole thing.”