Orville ClarkeGleaner WriterGrade one horses hold centre stage for the first time at Caymanas Park this season in the annual renewal of Eileen Cliggott Memorial Trophy, 1300 metres, contested by seven starters.Among them is the reigning champion sprinter, POKER STAR, who bids for his fourth consecutive win in his first attempt in grade one company, with four-time champion Omar Walker riding for 15-time champion trainer Wayne DaCosta.POKER STAR can expect what amounts to his stiffest test from main rivals UPPA TUNE, with top weight of 57.0kg, PHINEAS and the consistent CAMPESINO. Despite this, the classy four-year-old gelding looks the type to follow.POKER STAR has been so progressive in recent months that he is on course to win his fourth consecutive trophy race from the convenient mark of 54.0kg. The son of Liquidity-Buyabook has twice won over this trip in very fast times, clocking 1:17.3 on the first occasion in May of last year and 1:17.2 on October 17.After winning the Caribbean Sprint Championship, 1200 metres, in a fast time on November 14, slamming CAMPESINO by three lengths, he duly completed a hat-trick of wins in the St Catherine Cup, open allowance, feature over 1100 metres on January 2, holding off CAMPESINO by three-quarter length in the fairly good time of 1:05.2.That performance would suggest that the Philip Feanny-trained CAMPESINO is fast catching up to POKER STAR, but I believe he was flattered by his proximity to POKER STAR. A bigger danger comes in the form of Harry Parsard’s American seven-year-old horse, UPPA TUNE (Shane Ellis up), who is consistent and versatile as they come.Since finishing 10th to SEEKING MY DREAM in the rich Diamond Mile on December 5, UPPA TUNE has looked his old self at exercise in preparation for this race, galloping five-and- a-half furlongs in a brisk 1:06.3 by 1:00.1 on February 7 and 1:13.3 for six furlongs a week later.The big question is: Can UPPA TUNE successfully allow a rising star 3.0 kg at this stage?I doubt it.Other firm fancies on the 12-race programme are SPORTING CLAY and BURNING MEDIC in the respective sections of the Long Shot Trophy, in which PRINCE O’SHAUN and ALEXANDER are respective dangers. I also like down-in-class ITALIANO to romp the fourth; BIG DATA in the fifth; NOLAN HILL in the seventh; and the champion two-year-old of 2015, FUTURE KING, to win the overnight allowance mile for the Walker/DaCosta team.
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