Just look at the firepower of the country’s two top stables. Desert Sheik, Patriotic Rebel, Espumanti, Thunder Dance and Welwitschia all looked strong chances for Mike while Sean was represented by Kolkata, Whiteline Fever, For The Lads, Willow Magic and General Sherman from his 12-runner army.
At the end of the meeting, Messrs De Kock and Tarry could be described as the two leaders in the Comrades – walking not running – towards the finishing post!
As far as “Striker’’ Strydom was concerned, he had Kolkata and Run For It – but I didn’t fancy the latter. So many horses fail to do well in the Champions Cup after having a hard race in the Vodacom Durban July.
Those punters who kept faith with Robbie Fradd in the Gold Cup – and the tote return of R30 suggests there weren’t many – were rewarded, as was the case in the Durban July. While I wasn’t singing his praises on Saturday night, the bottom line is that the 48-year-old is never far away in the big races.
Big races have proved a nightmare for backers this season, as was pointed out yesterday by my buddy Michael “Knight’’, co-owner of useful, but slow-starting Tiger Attack.
“You can start with the Sansui Summer Cup, won by Wagner (16-1), then no-one even knew Martial Eagle (75-1) was running in the J&B Met. Then, Heavy Metal was 40-1 when he won the President’s Champions Challenge at Turffontein in April, Seal was 25-1 when he won the Jubilee Handicap, What A Winter got bowled in the Mercury Sprint and now Jeppe’s Reef wins the Gold Cup at 25-1. I don’t know how punters survive,’’ said Michael.
It’s worth looking at some of Saturday’s races when a number of fancied runners bit the dust.
Race 2: My feeling was that the handicapper might now have the measure of Desert Sheik and Sabadell (very well backed) made more appeal. However, I didn’t back the Var gelding as I was waiting for his R1.8-million stablemate later in the day.
Race 6: Vaughan Marshall’s colt Exelero, was the big tip on Saturday morning. “I hear he can’t lose,’’ was Michael K’s comment. The two of us used to race a three-time winning nag out of Danika Stud’s mare, Little Strike, called Final Impact. So I promptly announced to the regulars at my favourite betting shop that “Kochka is wonderful value at 10-1 – get on and take the double with Yorker’’. I screamed Kochka home and was more than happy to shoot up a round – including one for surprise visitor, Tellytrack presenter Jimmy Lithgow.
Gold Cup: Several top jocks – including Kevin Shea on Adobe Pink – seemed to get stuck in the ruck as the field swung for home and it was the runners who had been in the front rank from the start who were there at the finish. If there hadn’t been a soccer match going on at the same time, you could have heard a pin drop as Jeppe’s Reef beat 28-1 outsider Masai Warrior. I had forgotten that Michael Azzie would have had the Gary Player-bred gelding at his peak on the day.
Race 8: The only relief for punters, as Sean Cormack partnered Jackson to an emphatic victory in the Champions Cup. It will be interesting to see what route is chosen by owners Ian Longmore and Jack Mitchell. For bookmakers, Jackson’s sixth win was their worst result of the day. “I won on the Gold Cup, but my clients climbed into Jackson big time and got it all back, plus,’’ said one bookie on Saturday night.
Race 9: If you listened to the pundits on Tellytrack they were almost unanimous in saying Jet Belle was the banker bet at the meeting. You couldn’t argue with the formbook following the Jet Master filly’s excellent third behind Do You Remember in the Woolavington. Not a place for the three year-old out of a former Gold Cup heroine in Bella Bianca – you’ve got to be joking!
Race 10: I have a number of favourite restaurants in Joburg and it looked like being a great night with Yorker a shoo-in for the Darley Arabian. Am I seeing things right? Is that Fradd in the yellow colours, miles off the pace? “He’ll have to be Frankel with an extra leg to win from there,’’ I shouted, as 22-1 shot Distinguished found the best finish. If you cast your mind back, Yorker got beaten at 8-10 when Anton Marcus rode him in a Maiden Plate on Charity Mile Day last year. Have we overrated this well-bred inmate of Geoff Woodruff’s stable? Only time will tell.
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Understandably, much of the news in recent weeks has centred on the health of former president Nelson Mandela.
Happily, another South African icon, Gary Player, seems fit as a fiddle and BloodStock SA are delighted that he has agreed to be the patron at their golf day – linked to the Emperors Palace National Two-Year-Old Sale – at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club on 13 August.
“The aim of the golf day is to race funds for all the Horse Care Units and our retired athletes,’’ commented BloodStock SA CEO Tom Callaghan. The cost to sponsor a hole is R5,000.
“We will also be auctioning some signed Gary Player memorabilia as well as some paintings and stallion shares,’’ added Tom.
Gary’s love of racing is well documented and his filly, Colonial Girl, won the Gold Cup in 2000. Many – including myself – would love to see him rewarded for his enthusiasm and commitment by leading in the winner of one of the big three – the Vodacom Durban July, J&B Met or Sansui Summer Cup.
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