Tortola horse becomes first V.I. Triple Crown winner


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ST. THOMAS ­- By the time the third and final leg of the V.I. Triple Crown was set to start on Sunday, a heavy rain had started to drench Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack. While it certainly added to the dramatic atmosphere, the result of the race was one everybody saw coming - with Really Uptown finishing the 1-mile race in first place with a time of 1 minute and 41 seconds to become the first V.I. Triple Crown winner.

From the start, Tortola's champion horse took a commanding lead. As the race progressed, the gap widened, with Really Uptown leading second-place finisher Sweet Sight by about 10 lengths. By the time Really Uptown was crossing the finish line, jockey Alberto Soto was casually waving to fans in the crowd, far enough ahead of the competition to merit cheerful showboating.

For Really Uptown's owner, Violet Hodge, today's victory meant something more than results and prize money: It is a source of pride for her family.

"I'd like to give this race to my father. He's passed, but he has been the number one horse owner here," said Hodge, who is carrying on her family's long legacy of horse racing. She also dedicated the win to her husband.

"This one is for you guys," she said happily.

Hodge had taken a two-year break from racing after a dispute with a trainer over the treatment of her last horse, the famous Actspectation. Her current horse's supremacy at the Triple Crown, which is in its second year, surely made her decision to come back seem like a good one in retrospect.

Really Uptown - who started out as a sprinter before being converted into a distance runner - took a commanding lead right out of the gate.

"When he gets on the track, all of his training is over. It's up to the horse," said Really Uptown's trainer Antonio Cordero.

Apparently, they were right to rely on the six-year-old horse, who cemented himself a place in racing folklore with a clean sweep of all three legs of the V.I. Triple Crown.

While Really Uptown refused to allow fans any speculation as to who the best horse on the track was on Sunday, the battle for second place provided fans with some edge-of-the seat excitement. Coming down to a measure of inches between two local horses, Sweet Sight was able to edge out Twisted Dream for second place. News Carrier, also a local horse, finished fourth.

The cash purse for the race was $10,000, with the golden trophy serving as a bragging-rights bonus for the Really Uptown team. Each win was worth $10,000, and the overall Triple Crown earned a $25,000 bonus.

The fifth race of the six-race card was a two-horse battle, with local horse Bud White coming away victorious in the 6-furlong race in 1:12. Derby Nation, also a local horse, came in second by default. That race had a purse of $5,000.

The fourth race of the day, with a $4,600 prize, saw another St. Thomas horse emerge victorious. Miss Tequila finished the 7½-furlong race in 1:37. Rounding out the rest of the top three was Florida's Mae Ruler in place and Tortola's Orithyia in show.

"The turnout was much more than we expected. I must say, the fans came out today," said Wystan Benjamin, President of the St. Thomas-St. John Horse Owners' Association. Benjamin, like so many others, has been blown away by the level of dominance displayed by the Tortola gelding.

"Really Uptown made history," he said. "I'd like to see the day he loses; right now, it doesn't look like it's going to happen."

According to Hodge, Really Uptown will now get a few much-deserved weeks off. "We'll be here for the Governor's Cup," said a hopeful Hodge.

For now, there should be no question as to who the premier horse is in the Virgin Islands; winning a race by 10 lengths deserves at least that much recognition.

Other race results

Race 1 - 6 furlongs; $4,000

The Pia Angel -- 1:13

X-Pleasure

What's Poppin

Race 2 - 1 mile, 70 yards; $4,000

Daddy's Dream -- 1:48

Charlie the Runner

Extra Brew

Race 3 - 1 mile; $4,300

Mr. Gold Prospect -- 1:43

Tiger Glider

Gaffalione (Tortola)

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