Canadian biomedical entrepreneur Eugene Melnyk has a powerful three-horse entry in Saturday's $107,000 Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup (Bar-I).
Melnyk and his wife Laura, who live on the Caribbean island northeast of Venezuela, will be running Warleigh, Airy Hill, and Skeete's Bay, which are all named for towns in Barbados. He learned from mistakes made last year and is in a good position to add the race's gold trophy to his collection.
Last year, Blackstage Alley finished poorly in the Gold Cup for Melnyk because he had shipped in late for the race and never adequately adjusted to the track and local conditions.
"We've done it quite different this time around," Melnyk said. "Theyêve all adapted very well."
Airy Hill and Warleigh have won prep races in convincing style over the Garrison Savannah racing surface. Skeete's Bay finished 15 lengths behind Airy Hill, but reported has rebounded and been working well in the mornings.
"(Skeete's Bay) had a low blood count but we've corrected that and he's now working as well as we can expect," Melnyk said.
The 21st running of the Gold Cup is being called one of the race's most competitive editions. Also in the field are two runners for veteran Barbados trainer Bill Marshall who is saddling the 2000 and 2001 Gold Cup winner Blast of Storm and Storm Hunter.
Sally Arbib's Blast of Storm so dominated the Barbados racing scene for the past couple years that he earned a trip to Woodbine Race Course for the $1 million Atto Mile (Can-I). He finished ninth.
Since returning to the island, Blast of Storm has finished third twice behind the filly Talkaboutlucky, the 2001 Horse of the Year.
"We used those races to remind him of home," Marshall said, "but weêve cranked him up a notch since then and heês responded real well."
Talkaboutlucky is trained by Roger Parravicino and owned by his father Nick, who has owned racehorses in Barbados longer than any other individual.
"She's as good a filly as I've ever owned and Roger has her as fit as hands can make her," said Nick Parravicino. "All we can hope for is good racing luck and I'm confident sheêll do us proud."
The race's other challengers include Adawar, Another Decision, and New Millennium, who are shipping in from the neighboring island of Trinidad, and Wahoo, Dance Numerous, and Nicodemus, who are based in Barbados.