A spectator-less race meet as apprentice Matthew Bennett rides 1st winner under such conditions – race day recap

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Matthew Bennett (equipment in hand) created history by becoming the first rider to win a race on a spectator-less race day at Caymanas Park yesterday (March 17). The winning horse was Super Mal.

KINGSTON, Jamaica – On a day when spectators were prevented from attending the racetrack to cheer on and wager on horses competing, due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Anthony Nunes-conditioned Toona Ciliata caused his own uproar with a superlative performance at Caymanas Park yesterday (March 17).

Coming off a three-month break, Toona Ciliata defeated rivals by two and a quarter lengths in the $1.15-million King’s Plate feature, run over seven and a half furlongs (1,500 metres).

COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, and with 13 cases already confirmed in the island, officials decided to execute the races without spectators, including owners of horses, in an effort to minimise the risk of spreading the virus which has caused nearly 8,000 deaths globally. This was the first time in the history of horse racing at Caymanas Park that a race meet was run without spectators, and apprentice Matthew Bennett had the distinction of riding the first winner under such conditions, Super Mal, for trainer Stephen Todd over 800m straight.

Meanwhile, Toona Ciliata, racing for the first time since December of last year, turned on the pressure in deep stretch to win going away in a time of 1:33.1 for Open Allowance three-year-olds and upwards.

Bouncing nicely down the backstretch, Toona Ciliata was held tightly by jockey Linton Steadman in third place behind Graydon (Dane Dawkins) and Sentient (Christopher Mamdeen). The winner advanced to second place in chase of Graydon at the half mile (800m) before taking command at the top of the lane.

With a couple cracks from the whip Toona Ciliata accelerated and powered home to win easily ahead of Crimson (Anthony Thomas) and Sentient, in that order.

It was the second winner on the day for Nunes, who had earlier unsaddled Let Him Fly (Shane Ellis) in the winners’ enclosure after the three-year-old released the maiden tag over six and a half furlongs (1,300m). Also winning two races was trainer Patrick Lynch with Contractor (Dane Nelson) in the second event, and Balas Gris (Dane Dawkins) in the third event.