Terri Pompay must defend her city.
The evil villain has a grotesque Bane-like mask covering his nose and mouth, suggesting horrors unseen and an animalistic cruelty.
“Sorry, I’ve been having allergies,” Shivananda Parbhoo says with a sheepish laugh, pulling the white paper respirator mask down and letting it dangle by its rubberband around his neck.
Well, so much for that delicious rivalry dynamic.
Round three between Currency Swap and Trinniberg will take place in the Grade I King’s Bishop one race prior to today’s Travers at Saratoga Race Course.
Pompay, a 1979 Saratoga Central Catholic High graduate, will have the hometown crowd on her side in support of her trainee Currency Swap, the 5-2 morning-line favorite after winning the Grade II Amsterdam on July 29.
Trinniberg, meanwhile, comes into the race having vanquished Currency Swap by a length and three-quarters in the Woody Stephens at Belmont Park in June in what was something of a rematch of last year’s Hopeful.
The unflaggingly genial Parbhoo owns Trinniberg, who is trained by his father, Bisnath Parboo, and he said that the matchup will be great for the fans, but stopped well short of applying any sort of rivalry label to it.
“I look at it as racing, not revenge,” he said. “It’s good when you have two horses that keep coming back to each other. It’s very good for the public, for everybody, because everybody’s looking for a match race. With these two guys, everybody’s going to look forward to see what they’re going to do and who’s going to go when. I like it. But I would not say revenge.”
For her part, Pompay can’t help but account for Trinniberg’s looming presence in the King’s Bishop, but her focus is entirely on the momentum Currency Swap has rebounded into since a failed attempt to make the Kentucky Derby field.
“A lot of the media has been asking me that [rivalry] question more than it has really crossed my mind,” she said. “I’m just happy to be here and be able to show how good my horse is. We’ve all worked hard to get him to this point.”
You’re no fun.
The point to which Currency Swap, a bay son of High Cotton, has reached is a spot among the top 3-year-old sprinters in the country.
In a Hopeful that was as memorable for its dramatic finish as it was for the joyous celebration among Pompay and her friends and family, including her parents, Currency Swap wore down the front-running Trinniberg in deep stretch on a muddy, wet-concrete type of track to win by three-quarters of a length last September.
He missed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a minor ankle chip, but was still flirting with the idea of making the Derby when he bombed in the Illinois Derby, forcing Pompay and owners Seth Klarman of Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, a Shaker High School graduate, to reconsider sprinting.
Dropped back to seven furlongs, Currency Swap won the You and I at Belmont, then got caught in the unwanted role of pace factor while stalking close to Trinniberg in the Woody Stephens under regular rider Rajiv Maragh.
Pompay said she doesn’t expect to have to get dragged into that scenario again in the King’s Bishop.
“The thing about this race versus the Woody Stephens is there’s a lot more speed in here, like Doctor Chit, to maybe soften him [Trinniberg] up,” she said. “Last time, we had to do the dirty work and run after him. My horse doesn’t want to do that. He wants to break and be in the fray, but he doesn’t want to be chasing him the whole way. We’ll be close, but hopefully, we won’t have to be looking him in the eye the whole way, either.”
After the Woody Stephens, Trinniberg was pointing to the Amsterdam, but his Florida-based connections sent him to the Carry Back at Calder out of loyalty to their home track, Parbhoo said.
The 1-5 favorite lost in a head-bob to Fort Loudon, who is in the King’s Bishop field.
“He wasn’t ready for the Calder race,” Parbhoo said.
Currency Swap went off as the 9-5 favorite in the Amsterdam and pounced on pacesetter Doctor Chit at the top of the stretch, methodically pulling ahead at the sixteenth pole to win by 13⁄4 lengths on the same track where he gave Pompay the first Grade I victory of her career last year.
“This horse has done wonders for me, and he’s a cool horse,” Pompay said. “I guess I’m not so nervous, because he’s kind of proved himself, and he’s also training really well. Every race, he comes out of it a little better, a little stronger. I’m more like, ‘bring ‘em on’ than feeling nervous.”
Unlike Currency Swap, Trinniberg did make the Kentucky Derby field.
As instructed, jockey Willie Martinez geared him down once it became apparent that he wasn’t going to get away with an easy lead.
Bodemeister made sure of that, and Trinniberg fell back to 17th.
The Derby is Trinniberg’s only race beyond seven furlongs, and now that he’s back at his preferred sprints, he looks like the one everybody has to catch, the Carry Back notwithstanding.
“It was something we had to try,” Parbhoo said of the Derby.
Besides the top two — Trinniberg is 7-2 — the King’s Bishop, as usual, has an interesting cast of characters, including Willy Beamin, a New York-bred who rolled in the nine-furlong Albany on Wednesday for his fifth straight win and is wheeling right back to race three days later for owner James Riccio and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.
The central figures, though, will be the horse trained by the hometown girl and the one who everyone likely will be chasing out of the gate.
“That’s why she’s the favorite,” Parbhoo said. “I would think they would be, because she’s a local girl, but I’m not a bad guy. I think everybody would want to see a race, than see a horse run away with a race. There’s no interest in that. As a fan, as a player, I would rather see a race, than see a horse run away by 10, like Questing.”
“Yeah, Trinniberg is the horse, and if we can win this race, we’ll be, no question, the top 3-year-old sprinter,” Pompay said. “So I want it for him really bad, but do I think it’s a rivalry? Not really. Yeah, it is, on paper, but I really don’t think of it like that.”