It was a case of “Girl Power”at Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July as Candice Bass-Robinson became the first woman to train the winner of the R4.25-million race.
Top-weight Marinaresco burst through over the final 200m to collar 4-1 favourite Al Sahem by a head to give Bass-Robinson a July winner in her first year as a trainer. She took over the yard from her father, Mike Bass, on 1 August last year.
Marinaresco was runner-up to The Conglomerate last year but this time, despite an additional 4.5kg on his back, came flying up late under Bernard Fayd’Herbe. He is the first horse to carry 60kg to victory in this race. The previous highest was 59.5kg carried by Heavy Metal in 2013.
Despite his good form at Greyville Marinaresco was allowed to go off at 17-1 and paid R23.20 for a win at TAB. “It’s amazing,” said Fayd’Herbe. “He opened favourite for this race and after just one bad run in the Gold Challenge everybody just wrote him off.”
There was an absolute stampede to the winning post with just 1.40 lengths covering the first four past the post. Lots of people fancied three-year-olds Al Sahem and Edict Of Nantes (9-2) to fight it out and they did not disgrace themselves, finishing second and third respectively. There was a dead heat for fourth place between Krambambuli (16-1) and filly Nightingale (20-1), another of the Bass-Robinson runners. With Horizon finishing sixth that saw the three Bass-Robinson runners dominate the places in the race.
Bass-Robinson was not surprised by the fine display from their runners. “In my own little way I thought they would all run well. I did believe Marinaresco was the best horse in the race and if things went his way he could win it. He’s got a great turn of foot but it did look at one stage as if he wasn’t going to get there.
“He’s a small horse but he has a massive heart.”
There was not that much pace on and eventually Piere Strydom decided to take It’s My Turn to the front with Krambambuli in second. Al Sahem was quite handily placed while Anton Marcus was caught a bit wide on Edict Of Nantes. Meanwhile Marinaresco was nearer the rear of the field.
“When I turned into the straight I had so much horse under that I knew if I could get a split he would win. They didn’t go too hard and in the straight we were sprinting for home. When we got to the 200m I thought I had a chance.”
At that stage S’manga Khumalo got Al Sahem’s nose in front while Nightingale, Black Arthur and Horizon started to close on the outside.
“I gave Marinaresco one tap and he just took off. When we got to the line I wasn’t sure if we had got up but S’manga indicated to me that he thought we had,” said Fayd’Herbe.
Marinaresco is owned by Marsh Shirtliff, Fred Green, Bryn Ressell and Mike Bass and competed in Shirtliff’s colours, the same as those carried by Pocket Power who dead-heated with Dancer’s Daughter in the 2008 July.
They were clearly delighted and Shirtliff could not stop kissing a bewildered Marinaresco. “When Pocket Power ran we always felt the pressure,” said Shirtliff. “This time I didn’t have the favourite, and I was coming with no expectations. This was just amazing.”
The one bad race Fayd’Herbe spoke about was in the Rising Sun Gold Challenge over 1600m Last month in which Marinaresco never really raised a gallop and finished unplaced behind Captain America. “We forced him to sit too handy last time and he just didn’t like it,” said Mike Bass. “We decided this time to drop him and let him run his own race.
“I did think he would struggle at the weights, especially if you look at the turnover with The Conglomerate who beat him last year. But he is a very game little horse and it was a fantastic ride.”
Speaking about the early success of his daughter, Bass added: “It’s a tremendous achievement for Candice. I’m obviously very proud and pleased.”
For Fayd’Herbe, who had to share the riding honours last time, this was a special moment. “I’m just so glad to have won it outright.”
Marinaresco was due to be packed off to Dubai but due to a number of reasons that is now on hold. Al Sahem is another who was having his last run locally.
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