Holder chasing Barbados Gold Cup glory

Holder chasing Barbados Gold Cup glory

TORONTO, January 30, 2024— Ted Holder views the biggest horse race in Barbados just as he did as a young boy – wide-eyed and full of wonder.

His association with the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup, the annual Thoroughbred race that takes place on the first Saturday in March at the Garrison Savannah Racetrack in the Barbadian capital of Bridgetown, dates back nearly 50 years.

“I remember going to the race with my family, starting when I was very young,” recalled the Woodbine-based trainer. “There was always so much to see and do. I can recall sitting on the hood of my dad’s car and watching the race.

“It was a big celebration of the country’s connection to horses and horse racing. By the time I was around 13, there were some very nice horses racing in Barbados and some very good riders too. Harry Blades and Geoffrey Griffith, Challenor Jones, who was at the end of his career – all these jockeys were very talented.”

They weren’t the only ones who looked the part on Gold Cup day.

Holder and his friends were meticulous in what they chose to wear for the race.

“Everyone, no matter what the age, would dress up for the big day. Back in my time, you were expected to dress up to go to the Gold Cup – don’t go in jeans and a T-shirt. Semi-formal was acceptable in the crowd I used to go with. You wore a nice shirt and pants, along with some nice shoes, and you looked like you were part of the crowd.”

The country, home to just under 282,000 people, would come to a standstill on the day of the race.

“By noon, all the stores and shops would be closed for the race,” recalled Holder. “Everything was about the race on that day. People would try and get a good vantage point to watch the race. The atmosphere was just incredible.”

The lure of Woodbine

Over time, Holder’s fondness for the race, the sport, and its stars grew stronger.

He wasn’t the only one in his circle of friends to be charmed by horse racing.

His childhood pals included Slade Callaghan, and brothers Chris and Ricky Griffith, all of whom would eventually find a career in the Thoroughbred world beyond Barbados.

Holder, and others, would eventually carry their hopes of winning big races to Woodbine.

It was Ricky Griffith who became the trailblazer for Barbadian horse people looking to conquer new worlds.

At 15, Griffith received his license to ride at the Garrison Savannah in Barbados.

Forty years ago, Tinkers Image (GB), would become the foundation of his successful Thoroughbred life. On the reserved list for the Barbados Gold Cup up until the day of the race, a scratch enabled the William C. Marshall trainee to find a spot in the starting gate.

What followed was a fairytale finish.

Playing out in front of a lively crowd of onlookers, Griffith delivered a near-flawless ride aboard Tinkers Image en route to a triumph in the edition of the Gold Cup. With the victory, he became the first Bajan jockey to win the race.

But he was only getting started.

Three years later, Griffith earned his first win in Canada aboard the aptly named Rising Young Star. He would go on to record 494 career victories over his decorated riding career.

As a trainer, his stars included multiple stakes winner Dan The Tin Man. Griffith posted 205 career wins. His horses accumulated over $6.6 million in purse earnings. ​

Last August, at the age of 58, Griffith passed away after a lengthy battle with ALS.

Holder and the Bajan-Canadian racing community – along with dozens of others at Woodbine and other racetracks – took to social media and other platforms to pay tribute to the respected Thoroughbred figure.

“He was a great horseman, someone who paved the way for all of us.”

Winning a Gold Cup like Griffith would be deeply meaningful for Holder.

“It is on my bucket list. I would like to mark that off before long.”

Going for the Gold

This year’s edition of the race, set for Saturday, March 2, could provide Holder with a legitimate chance to make that dream a reality.

Two chances, to be specific.

Holder currently has a pair of hopefuls working towards a start in the Barbadian Grade 1 event, contested at 1,800 meters (8.95 furlongs) on the turf.

Pat’ssewingmachine is a lightly raced son of multiple grades stakes winner We Miss Artie.

The Maryland-bred bay has contested three of his starts at Woodbine.

“His form doesn’t say he is anything special, but he loves the distance,” said Holder of the six-year-old, who is 1-0-4 from eight races. “He likes the pace to be fast – and the Gold Cup usually is – and he is a closing type. He figures to get a big piece of the pie with his running style.

“He is coming around. The last month, he has had some nice works with me here in Florida, so that is a good sign. I have been happy with him, but he will have to improve a few lengths in the race. He’s not big, but he is sound, and he likes the distance and the turf.”

Holder’s other hope comes in the form of Forester Humor, a Florida-bred son of successful sire Old Forester.

In 14 starts, the chestnut gelding, who has raced exclusively at Woodbine, is 3-0-1. ​

“I really like this horse. He likes the turf and all along, I have always wanted to stretch him out. ​ I claimed him and I won right off the claim with him at Woodbine. He is going in the right direction. I think he will stretch out. He has won for me on the front and when he races 6 ½ furlongs on the turf, he came from off the pace. He sat in the pocket and Ryan Munger got him out and they went on to win.

“I own Forester Humor with my two best friends growing up, Chris Griffiths and Dean Springer. He will race in partnership with us and Steve Samaroo, who owns half.”

Although his pair of entrants might be classified as under-the-radar types, Holder is happy with what he has seen from both in the leadup to the Gold Cup. ​

He is also looking to add to his list of entrants.

“I am shopping for two more horses. We will push it to the eleventh hour if we need to do that.”

Regardless of the number of hopefuls he sends out, Holder is eagerly counting down the days until this year’s running.

This will mark the first year he will be officially listed as the trainer in the program.

“I have been associated with shipping horses to Barbados over the past eight years. So, I have had some connection to horses who have been in the race, including It’s a Gamble, last year’s winner.

“This whole journey is very exciting. Talking to my childhood friends and close circle, we joke about the race – they call me the (multiple graded stakes-winning trainer) Michael Dickinson of the group because I tend to think outside the box. Not everything is black and white in horse racing.”

The big horse

Holder, currently stationed in Ocala, FL, for the winter months, recently traveled to Barbados to help Pat’ssewingmachine and Forester Humor acclimate to their new surroundings.

He is also working to prepare the star of his barn, namely, Kaukokaipuu (a Finnish term meaning “wanderlust”) for his 4-year-old campaign.

Last year, the handsome grey son of Mr Speaker went 2-3-0 from seven starts. He won the Queenston Stakes and contested The King’s Plate, finishing an off-key 15th in Canada’s most famous horse race.

Bred in Ontario by Sean Fitzhenry, Kaukokaipuu rebounded from the Plate effort with a strong second in the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown, in mid-September.

“He is my main focus – I don’t want to be far from him. He has grown a lot. I would say he put on 50 pounds – he gained weight and bulk – from last year.

“His sister, Hallanvaara, could have been a good one, but she got hurt. I knew if he had the type of talent she had, we would have a very nice horse on our hands. And we do.”

Kaukokaipuu, who owns a 2-8-0 mark from 14 starts and $286,658 in purse earnings, isn’t quite as bullish on Holder, who also co-owns as part of the Culpepper Island Syndicate.

“He doesn’t like me too much,” he said with a laugh. “I give him his medication, so when he sees me walk into his stall, he goes to the back and turns his head away from me. Outside the stall, a two-year-old kid could sit on his back and ride him around. He is not aggressive to train or anything of the sort.”

For Holder, Kaukokaipuu is as special as they come.

“He is a horse out of a dream.” ​ ​

Outside of his stable standout, there are other dreams to chase.

Some of them down the road, others around the corner.

In just over a month, Holder will be back at the racetrack where his connection to Thoroughbred racing again.

And just like on King’s Plate day, he will be dressed for the occasion, hopeful of making more than a fashion statement in the race that was inaugurated in 1982.

If Holder were to win the Gold Cup, he would become the latest horse person with significant ties to Woodbine to hoist the trophy aloft.

Jockeys Patrick Husbands, Jono Jones, Rico Walcott, Slade Callaghan, Simon Husbands, Emile Ramsammy and Hall of Fame legend Sandy Hawley have all won the race.

Mark Casse, who has won 15 Woodbine trainer titles, took the 2010 edition with Sterwins.

The thought of joining the ranks of his contemporaries is somewhat unimaginable, admitted Holder.

But he is ready for the challenge.

“There are always certain races you want to win, and the Gold Cup is one of them for me. For as long as I can recall, I have always loved watching the race. This time, I hope it is the most memorable one of all.”

Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms

Grace Martin
Grace Martin Communications Specialist, Woodbine Entertainment
Horse Racing - TB
About Woodbine Entertainment

Woodbine Racetrack is Canada’s home the biggest and most exciting thoroughbred races. Located in Toronto, Woodbine Racetrack typically operates thoroughbred racing from April through December. Premier races include the longest continuously ran horse race in North America, The Queen’s Plate, Breeders Cup win and you’re in races the Woodbine Mile, Summer and Natalma Stakes, along with the fan-favourite Canadian International Stakes. 

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