Even before the running of the SA Derby, trainer Mike de Kock said Royal Crusade had been booked into the local veterinary clinic for his gelding operation.
The son of Silvano had run third in the Grade 2 Gauteng Guineas but went flat in the next two legs of the SA Triple Crown. He ran ninth in the SA Classic over 1800m and then fifth in the SA Derby, ending up 3.25 lengths behind Hero’s Honour.
Five days after that Royal Crusade had the required surgery and word from the stable was that he had improved markedly since having been gelded. So it came as no surprise that he came out and won his first race back at Turffontein on Saturday, but perhaps the manner of the win would have left most pundits with food for thought.
The three-year-old had been viewed in some quarters as a somewhat one-paced runner who needed to be in touch with the leaders. There were others who felt the Inside track would not suit him and most pundits suggested 1600m would be too short.
We were all wrong.
The pace was quite strong and Callan Murray was content to sit at the rear aboard Royal Crusade. When the field came for home Murray darted for the inside rail but still had at least seven lengths to make up with 400m to run as Full Mast moved alongside pacemaker Alssakhra and raced into a clear advantage.
Piere Strydom must have felt he had his second winner of the day in the bag as the finishing line came into view but now Murray had Royal Crusade in full cry and he motored past Full Mast to win going away by 0.50 lengths.
There were a couple of beliefs that were put to rest. He is not one paced, he is fine on the Inside track and he still is capable of winning over 1600m.
What is certain is that Royal Crusade is horse to follow and a feature-race win cannot be far off. He started TAB favourite, the only one to win in the Pick 6 which paid out a massive R1,429,517.20 to just 1.23 winning tickets.
The biggest outsider in the Pick 6 was Storm Warning from the Fabian Habib stable, who won Race 6 under Chase Maujean and paid R21.80 for a win.
Before that, Mwelase won Race 4 for trainer Joe Soma and jockey S’manga Khumalo at odds of 13-1, paying R14.00 for a Win. Race 5 went the way of Cold Cash, another 13-1 chance, for Gary Alexander and apprentice Dennis Schwarz.
The concluding three legs went to horses paying R3.70, R3.90 and R4.60 for a win.
The Jackpot paid a very decent R8,032.
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