23/06/2018 – Jamaica Gleaner. / WAYNE DaCosta’s MR UNIVERSE will have the lead for himself in this afternoon’s Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame Stakes trophy but can still be caught by Anthony Nunes’ ORPHEUS in the six-furlong event for open allowance runners.
MR UNIVERSE‘s awesome speed was last on display in the May 26 Lotto Sprint, nullifying Nunes’ SIEMPRE BUENO, before stablemate SHE’S A MANEATER ran on to win the event.
ORPHEUS reports off a near four-month layup after being denied a hat-trick by SIEMPRE BUENO at 1000 metres straight on March 7. He was charging at his stablemate when the post intervened, resulting in a one-length loss in a fast 57.4, burdened with topweight 126lb.
MR UNIVERSE has race-fitness to his advantage, having run four times, including two wins, since ORPHEUS‘ last outing. However, he is up in class against ORPHEUS who is a strong closer at six furlongs, territory in which DaCosta’s speedster is known to shorten against good company.
Nunes has done a great job of nursing ORPHEUS, the 2016 Derby awardee, back to peak form, confining him to sprints and middle-distance events, epic battles featuring his stablemate, SIEMPRE BUENO, and Richard Azan’s MONEY MAGNET with whom MR UNIVERSE had showdowns as a two-year-old, two years ago.
Before his Lotto Sprint run, MR UNIVERSE had won a week earlier at five furlongs straight, posting a comfortable 58.1, carrying 115lb in overnight allowance company, beating SARAH LEE and LORD EQUUS, weaker company, less weight and a slower time than ORPHEUS March 7 effort.
MR UNIVERSE returns with 115 but ORPHEUS gets a six-pound relief in the scale, coming in at 120lb, not too far off from his rival, who will have in-form Gary Richards aboard. Shane Ellis has been aboard ORPHEUS five times in his last six starts and knows he can’t allow Richards to steal a march with MR UNIVERSE.
Though ORPHEUS‘ stablemate, BILINGUAL, is also in the event, there is little, by way of speed, that the four-year-old filly can offer to help. Ellis will have to undertake the torrid job of chasing MR UNIVERSE and hope he can outfinish Richards in a last-furlong duel.