It isn’t easy for Cape Town trainers to make the Great Trek inland and successfully campaign their horses on the Highveld. But it can be done and those skilled and brave enough to tackle the challenge find rich pickings.
The latest trainers to do so are Glen Kotzen and Justin Snaith, whose runners landed the Exacta in the main event on the card at the Vaal on Saturday.
Kotzen’s Silvan Star won Race 4, a Pinnacle Stakes over 1450m, with Snaith’s Gimme Six running into second place, just ahead of even-money favourite and local hero Nother Russia, in a six-runner field.
The race was a preparatory event for the Grade 1 Empress Club Stakes, to be contested over 1600m at Turffontein in mid April, and the result will have raised the hopes of visiting contingents for the Highveld autumn feature season as a whole.
The Mike de Kock trained Nother Russia had been many punters’ banker bet of the day, but she looked in need of the run. She was making up ground on the two southern fliers towards the end of the race, a er labouring down the straight, and will be a lot sharper come the big day.
However, Silvan Star, who got top service from Richard Fourie in the irons, is also a horse in preparation and should be just as much of a threat in the Empress Club Stakes. As will Gimme Six, who looked lively in Piere Strydom’s hands.
Silvan Star started at 7-2 and Gimme Six at 9-2.
Racing fans will be hoping the favourable result for the Western Cape will encourage more stables from beyond the grape curtain to venture north for a tilt at big prizes.
From the 1450m start, rank outsider Paree (44-1) went into an immediate lead, ahead of Gimme Six, Star Profile, Nother Russia, Silvan Star and Secret Star, who was slow away and lost a couple of lengths.
That remained the order most of the way around the long turn into the straight, with Nother Russia looking threatening in midfield some four lengths off the pace.
With 500m to go, Fourie let Silvan Star have her head and she responded like a good horse, setting up a leading margin that the challenging Gimme Six was unable to close. The winning distance was nearly a length, with another 1.50 lengths back to Nother Russia.
Fourie’s talents were put to good use later on the Free State card as he partnered Tyrone Zackey’s Gentleman Only (9-1) to a hard-fought victory in Race 8. Mambo Symphony (13-1) looked all over a winner after beating off challengers in the final stretch, but the Cape ace got an extra effort out of Gentleman Only to get up on the line.
The training honours were shared by Roy Magner and Paul Peter who each saddled a brace of winners.
Magner’s Colonel Bogey broke his maiden at the 16th attempt in Race 2, while his Shortstop registered a hat-trick in Race 5. It was also three from three for apprentice Dennis Schwarz on board the sprinting son of Rebel King, who started at 3-1 second favourite.