Really Uptown goes for Triple Crown Sunday on St. Thomas

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ST. THOMAS ­- Tortola racing sensation Really Uptown is vying to become the first V.I. Triple Crown winner with a win in Sunday's Leroy Gottlieb Classic at Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack on St. Thomas

The six-year-old gelding, owned by Violet Hodge, will be competing in the 1-mile race. For Hodge, the horse's transformation from sprinter to distance runner was an unexpected one.

"As he progressed and he started getting longer races, we realized that he is a distance runner. And as it proved, he ran the longest distance in St. Croix, which is 1⅛ mile, and he broke the record," said Hodge, originally from St. Thomas.

Really Uptown easily won the second leg of the Triple Crown on St. Croix in February, beating the second-place finisher by an estimated four lengths. According to the guidelines set in the inaugural V.I. Triple Crown, each leg of the three races is worth $10,000, and a bonus of $25,000 goes to the horse that wins all three.

For Hodge, 66, Really Uptown's success represents a rebirth of sorts. A dispute with a trainer over the treatment of her last horse, the heralded Actspectation, led to a two-year break from racing.

"After he got injured and some circumstances, I decided I was through with horse racing," said Hodge. "But it's in my blood - generations of my family and my father have been in horse racing."

Coming from a family that was so heavily involved in horse racing, Hodge began racing her own horses in 1987.

Actspectation proved to be her most successful horse, and arguably one of the most successful horses in Virgin Islands history. That is why the success of Really Uptown - which, with a win on Sunday, would be historic - has certainly not gone unnoticed by Hodge.

"Everyone said I couldn't get another good horse like Actspectation. And I said, 'Well, maybe not.' But, as you see, I have one that is as good as Actspectation, or probably better," she said.

Preparations for the race have been intense, according to Hodge, with training starting every day at 5 a.m. Horses are taken on different styles of runs twice each day, year-round.

"Every day they have a certain routine. Let's say two jogs today, tomorrow may be three jogs, two gallops," said Hodge. "You get them into condition. Prepare them for the race."

As Really Uptown, and jockey Alberto Soto, gear up for Sunday's race, Hodge, who also owns a real estate business in Tortola, has made sure not to let the horse's past success turn into overconfidence: "I never take a race for granted. Because you never know what could happen in a race."

Oddly enough, despite her pedigree, Hodge has never felt too comfortable around horses.

"The funny thing about this is I'm scared to death of horses," Hodge said, jokingly. "My father never let them get close, for fear of us getting hurt."

No matter; she sure knows how to pick them.

Sunday's race card

Race 1 - Class D; 6 furlongs; $4,000; 1:30 p.m.

1. Weir's Gap

2. X-Pleasure

3. Little Boy Brew (STX)

4. The Pia Angel (debut)

5. What's Poppin'

6. Good Boy Daddy

Alt. Burn the Harp (STX)

Race 2 - Class D; 1 mile, $4,000

1. Daddy's Dream

2. Charlie the Runner

3. Derby Nation (debut)

4. Extra Brew (debut)

5. Cash n' Carry

6. Green Sand (STX)

Race 3 - Class C; 1 mile $4,300

1. Mr. Gold Prospect

2. Tiger Glider

3. Greenlite Special

4. Gaffalione (Tortola)

Race 4 - Mare/Fillies; 7½ furlongs; $4,600

1. Mae Ruler (debut)

2. Whoshotthesheriff

3. Ohbabyobeyme

4. Orithyia (Tortola)

5. Miss Tequila

6. Dona Gongui

Race 5 - Open Sprint; 6 furlongs; $5,000

1. Bud White

2. Plotter (STX)

3. Broken Home (Tortola)

4. Berberis (STX)

Alt. Daddy's Dream

Alt. Derby Nation

Race 6 - Third Leg of V.I. Triple Crown; 1 mile; $10,000

1. Really Uptown (Tortola)

2. Twisted Dream

3. Sweet Sight

4. News Carrier

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