Many of the rich racedays are dominated by prominent trainers and owners but it is great when smaller yards take the honours in Grade 1 races.
Robbie Sage is probably one of the most underrated trainers in the country and was born into the world of racing. On Saturday he pulled off a brilliant feature race double, firstly with William The Silent in the R1-million SA Nursery over 1160m and then with Coral Fever in the R4-million Premier’s Champions Challenge over 2000m.
Both horses are owned by stable stalwart Colin Bird while Sylvia Vrska has a share in Coral Fever. As The horses moved to the start Coral Fever, who had the perfect build-up to this Grade 1 race, looked the pick of the parade and ran accordingly.
He was perfectly ridden by Muzi Yeni who picked up his second Grade 1 winner of the autumn season, his first coming on Classic Day when he rode Lobo’s Legend in the R2-million SA Classic.
The two horses who topped the be ing, Legal Eagle and Nother Russia, took the field along, with S’manga Khumalo, who stood in for an injured Anton Marcus, deciding to get on with it. Coral Fever was held towards the rear of the field while Corne Orffer had Abashiri some six lengths off the pace after a slow start.
With 250m le Legal Eagle had enough as Abashiri and Coral Fe- ver, who went off at 7-1, swooped to take over the lead. The two fought out a ding-dong battlele but it was Yeni who got the verdict by a head.
There was another 3.75 lengths back to third-placed Silvan Star with Nother Russia a further 1.25 lengths behind in fourth.
“I love riding work in the morning and some horses tell you they’re feeling good,” said Yeni. “This horse has been coming out of his gallops very well. He’s been a pleasure to ride and since we’ve put on the blinkers we’ve got and extra three or four lengths out of him.”
Sage said he was not sure whether they will send Coral Fever to Durban for the Vodacom Durban July. “I’m not sure he will be suited to Greyville but we will have to think about it.”
Abashiri (11-1), who had not won a race since capturing the Triple Crown winner in 2016, showed he was back to his best despite his narrow defeat. He is one of those five-year-olds who could come into the Durban July with a very handy weight and is worth watching.
It is rare one sees a smile of the face of Dean Alexander, brother of trainer Gary, but as he walked down to the winner’s circle after Hero’s Honour won the R2-mil- lion SA Derby, Dean was beaming from ear to ear. Although the son of Await The Dawn went off at a staggering 55-1, it proved to be an emotional moment for two people in particular. Mark Khan, five-time champion jockey who has just returned from another injury, managed to ride his first Grade 1 winner in many years while for prolific joint owner Lawrence Werners, he finally got his first Grade 1 winner.
Favourite at 10-3, Surcharge ran on strongly from the back of the field to get second once again, with Noble Secret a neck behind him in third.
“I’m very grateful to be given the chance,” said Khan. “I think there were some reservations about my recovery from injury, but it all worked out.”
The Computaform Sprint proved a triumph for Cape trainer Joey Ramsden who took first and third place with Attenborough and Speedpoint respectively. Going off at 16-1, Attenborough flew up late under Richard Fourie to get the be er of Pinnacle Peak, a 13-1 chance trained by Dorrie Sham and ridden by Craig Zackey, with Speedpoint (28-1) and Callan Murray in third.
Pippa Mickelburgh, one of the owners of A enborough was clearly over the moon with the win but was not going to be drawn in on the next move for the son of Western Winter. “I learned a long time ago not to tell trainers what to do so I’ll leave it up to Joey,” she said.
Sadly, for the owners of Takingthepeace, there was no fairytale ending of a Wilgerbosdrift Triple Tiara and she could only manage fourth behind Secret Potion in the SA Oaks.
However, she showed a lot of courage and did look threatening at one point but clearly did not see out 2450m.
“It’s fine,” said Mike de Kock. “They know they have a good horse and it has been one helluva ride.”
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