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Watson chases Derby dream with He's Really OK

Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer

From the moment he became a trainer, Frederick Watson says his dream was to win the Derby.

That dream could become a reality on Saturday as Watson saddles one of the fancied runners, HE'S REALLY OK, in the 89th running of the premier classic, sponsored for the first time by the United Bookmakers Association.

Owned and bred by Patrick Smellie, the three-year-old roan colt by He'stherealthing out of OK Mom entered the Derby picture following his decisive victory in the May 23 Lotto Classic for the Governor's Cup over 2000 metres.

Having won that prestigious race at odds of 6-1, Watson is convinced that it's really okay to win the Derby come Saturday.

"I was confident going into the Governor's Cup and I'm no less confident going into the Derby... He's Really OK should win," said the 44-year-old trainer who obtained his licence in June, 2007, after successfully completing the Jamaica Racing Commission's course for assistant trainers.

"Knowing that my horse is bred to stay, going the additional two furlongs of the Derby won't be a problem. It might be a problem for several of them and that's where He's Really Ok will have their supper.

"He won the Governor's Cup in the good time of 2:08.3, which was a full second faster that the time clocked by Saint Cecelia over 10 furlongs in the Oaks a month earlier. So, any way you look at it, He's Really OK is a dangerous horse," he argued.

Shopping around

Watson said that although the owner was shopping around for a foreign rider (even contacting Rajiv Maragh and Fernando Jara), they have decided to stick with in-form Paul Francis, who rode him in the Governor's Cup.

"Riding tactics will play an important role in the outcome of this Derby. My horse not only stays forever but has good pace, as he showed by disputing the lead from a long way in the Governor's Cup, before going through at the half-mile.

"The horses to watch are undoubtedly Bruceontheloose and Saint Cecelia, but Francis will know where to make his move.

"Outside of the two class horses I think Jaylen, who was second in the Governor's Cup, will run another good race as he has lots of scope for improvement," he said.

According to Watson, fitting He's Really OK with the figure-eight for the Governor's Cup made a difference.

"This had the effect that when the jockey tries to hold him, his mouth wouldn't open, making him more relaxed," he explained.

Making a name

Having joined the training ranks almost two years ago, Watson has been quietly making a name for himself. To date he has saddled 16 winners, most in the colours of his leading patron, Smellie, to whom he is forever grateful.

Significantly, Watson was the first from the batch of trainers who graduated in 2007 to saddle a winner from his first runner, this coming on July 7 last year when the Smellie-owned MYTHICAL PEGASUS won with Elvis Murray aboard.

Among his other winners are POWERFUL BELLE, AMERICAN DON, KRISS MISS, BEAUTIFUL SPACE, ROAD BLOCK, BORN TO RUN and of course, HE'S REALLY OK - all owned by Smellie.

Trained jeweller

A past student of Tivoli Comprehensive High School, Watson, a trained jeweller, came into racing as an owner in the early 90s, winning five races with the Harry Jaghai-trained STILL A KING, including the Ren Gonzalves Memorial Cup.

He soon hooked up with Jaghai as assistant trainer before going on his own two years ago.

Incidentally, his graduating class of 2007 also included trainers Spencer Chung and Dalton Sirjue, both of whom have fancied runners in SAINT CECELIA and JAYLEN, respectively, in the Derby.