Google Me takes aged stakes title
Google Me underlined her status as the island's top pony after winning the coveted aged stakes title at the first attempt during New Year's Day harness racing at Vesey Street.
Robert and Tyler Lopes's six-year-old mare went into the final heat of the day needing to post a 1:03/2 or better to clinch the title and was equal to the task. Google Me was declared the winner of the four-heat series with a combined average time of 4:11/1.
“I needed to do a 1:03/2 or faster and I got a 1:02/3, so mission accomplished,” Robert Lopes said. “This is her first time winning the aged stakes and it feels good.”
Candyce Martins, who drove Google Me to victory, added: “I knew I either had to stay close to the pony in front of me or come around her to get a 1:03/2 or faster, so I went for it and made it.”
Lopes's mare led main rival Simsfield Hardtimes on a tiebreak heading into the final two heats of the aged pony stakes series, which started on Boxing Day.
However, the eagerly anticipated showdown between the two ponies never materialised as they were kept apart in both heats by the outcome of the pre-race draw for track positions.
“I would have liked to have been with Simsfield Hardtimes, but it is what it is,” Lopes added. “Whatever the draw is, that's what it is.”
Aaron Sims, who trains gelding Simsfield Hardtimes, added: “We went for it and put up a good fight, but the draw wasn't in our favour.
“We had to come from the outside in a three-pony race and in our first heat the time wasn't as fast as it should have been. The second heat we had the rail and we pushed and equalled his fastest time of the day (1:02/3) but the average is what matters.”
The Lopes's Indiana-bred racing pony holds the overall track record, which stands at 1:01/1, as well as the mare's and four-year-old's records. She is also the only mare to win the coveted Champion of Champions.
“Her achievements speak for themselves,” Lopes added. “I never thought that she would be what she is and I'm sure other people feel the same way. She is the fastest pony here.”
Martins, 18, who also celebrated a maiden stakes victory, has formed a winning chemistry with Google Me.
“We have good chemistry and are getting to know each other more and more,” the driver said. “I know her as a horse, she knows me as a driver and we are starting to really click like we did towards the end of last season.”
Google Me and Simsfield Hardtimes went into the festive stakes races with a share of the season's fastest time of 1:01/3, which they achieved on the same race day on December 14.
Martins was not the only teenage driver basking in the limelight, as Christian Truran won the remaining three stakes divisions competing with as many ponies.
The 17-year-old Saltus student won the two-year-old, three-year-old and four-year-old stakes titles at the helm of stallion Somegoldsomewhere and geldings Rockeyed Optimist and Gold N Glory.
“I've never won stakes before so winning three types of stakes is pretty good and makes me feel very proud,” Truran said.
“The track was fast, but it takes a beating on you. My hands were full and I had to come around to win a few races.
“But you can't always have the best race every race so you have to make do with what you have.”
Nick DeCosta, who owns Somegoldsomewhere, hailed his godson's outstanding feat.
“It's a great thing for him,” DeCosta, the former Driving Horse and Pony Club president, said. “He's a young driver and it's nice to see these young children coming up dedicated to the sport and doing things like that.”
As for his two-year-old stallion, DeCosta added: “We brought him as a yearling and this is his first year of racing and he's done a lot better than I expected to be honest.
“At the beginning of the season I wasn't sure what direction he was going to go but it's turned out to be all right.”
War Machine, Pocket De Gold and Special Gold were the other ponies that held a share of the day's fastest time of 1:02/3 along with Google Me and Simsfield Hardtimes.