03/06/2010 12:00AM

Sterwins beats Bribon in Barbados


Canadian-bred Sterwins furnished a last-to-first rally to win the $97,000 Sandy Lane Gold Cup at the Garrison Savannah racecourse in Bridgetown, Barbados on Saturday.

In extreme heat and humidity and racing right-handed on a baked turf course, Sterwins, under expert handling by champion jockey Patrick Husbands, swung wide into the homestretch of the 1 1/8-mile event. He was up in the final sixteenth to win by about a half-length over Bribon, last year's Metropolitan Handicap winner.

Owned and bred by Eugene Melnyk, a Canadian who lives in Barbados, Sterwins ran the distance in a scorching 1:48 4/5, just one-fifith off the course record.

Bribon, owned by Derrick Smith and trained by Ed Walcott Jr. for Todd Pletcher was clear of Barbadian star Apostle who was third. The filly Bounceback, with Canadian rider Richard Dos Ramos on board, was fourth.

Mark Casse is the current trainer of Sterwins, a graded stakes winner in Canada for trainer Malcolm Pierce in recent years, and the 7-year-old gelding was prepared for the race at Melnyk's Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Florida by Phil Hronec.

Melnyk, who has supprted Barbados biggest race in the past and won it in 2004 with Kathir, was running a horse in the event for the first time since 2005.

"To bring a horse here that is one that I bred, it's more special," said an emotional Melnyk, who had over 200 friends and family in attendance at a private tent party. "This is where I live and to win this race here, it's no different than winning the Queen's Plate in Toronto, where I am from."

Sterwins, Melnyk, Casse, and Husbands were mobbed after the race by fans, including dozens of children as they made their way to the winner's circle. Husbands, who is from Barbados, is a hometown hero who was winning his third Gold Cup but first for Melnyk and Casse, his longtime clients.

Sterwins is a son of Runaway Groom out of the Wild Again mare Sweet Vale. The gelding was second in the Queen's Plate as a 3-year-old on Woodbine's dirt track and has won stakes on turf and Polytrack, including the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland in 2008.