Few would have dared believe at the beginning of February that Go Indigo would finish the month as a dual Graded stakes winner after she’d finished third in a relatively ordinary progress plate in her solitary appearance during January. However, all her connections’ wildest dreams – and then some, probably – have come true. Following up on her success in the Gr3 Three Troikas Stakes on the first Saturday of the second month, Go Indigo took another step up in class and emerged narrowly victorious in the Betting World Gauteng Fillies Guineas over 1600m at Turffontein (standside) on Saturday, writes MATTHEW LIPS.
Despite her success in the 1450m Three Troikas, Go Indigo was allowed to start as a 22/1 outsider for the Fillies Guineas as she had a wide draw and had failed to place when tried once over 1600m earlier in her career. The talk of the town was unbeaten Zimbabwe-trained raider Control Freak, who’d won eight times from as many outings at Borrowdale Park and who was heavily supported from an opening call of 7/2 to start as the 19/10 favourite to win her first start on her native South African soil. Bluroute was the 11/2 second favourite, narrowly ahead of her stable companion Ilha Bela, who started at 6/1 alongside Katy’s Lane.
Uptothemoon was an early leader at a respectable gallop, but before long it was Shadows In The Sun who went out to set the pace, with Uptothemoon settling into second ahead of Solarium, Bluroute, and Hidden Beauty. Control Freak was some seven lengths off the leader at the rail, with Katy’s Lane just in behind her but caught a little wide after jumping from gate 15. Go Indigo was also well off the pace and trapped deep on the turn as Shadows In The Sun brought them into the straight at a nice pace.
Control Freak began to make eye-catching headway once in the stretch and came forward to hit the front racing to the 300m mark, briefly giving her supporters every reason to believe that she’d deliver the goods. However, she started to come under pressure from all sides around 200m out, with Go Indigo coming forward wide out to take a narrow lead inside the last 100m as Ilha Bela launched a strong late run down the inside. Hidden Beauty was also right in contention as Control Freak yielded her advantage, but Go Indigo is nothing if not game and she fought on well under a driving Sherman Brown ride to hold Ilha Bela at bay by a nose.
Hidden Beauty seemed to cope with the mile well enough and finished a close third ahead of Control Freak, who was beaten some two lengths into fourth place. It is obviously highly debatable whether Lisa Harris’ filly is anywhere near as good as Ipi Tombi, with whom she is inevitably often compared, but even Ipi Tombi was beaten in her first South African appearance before going on to set two continents ablaze, and Control Freak may well come on from this run. There were no other obvious excuses for the darling of Zimbabwe, though, for she has twice won by wide margins over 1600m and she would have relished the slightly soft going which prevailed after a storm earlier on Saturday afternoon delayed proceedings by some three-quarters of an hour.
Katy’s Lane could only finish a never dangerous eighth, beaten 4.75 lengths by the winner, suffering her first defeat from five starts since finishing third on debut last April. Mary’s Pride, the unbeaten winner of two sprints, made no show in her first try around the turn and was beaten 6.25 lengths into 12th place.
Go Indigo was probably close to the end of her tether by the time she crossed the line and she must have some stamina doubts where the 1800m of the Gr1 SA Fillies Classic on March 31st is concerned. Most pundits would fancy Ilha Bela to reverse this narrow defeat should they meet again, although Go Indigo had to do this the hard way from her poor draw. However, the 2450m of the Gr2 SA Oaks which completes the Triple Tiara in April is highly unlikely to be within her reach even if her sire Indigo Magic is out of the Epsom Oaks-winning mare Lady Carla.
Go Indigo is trained by Leon Erasmus, who sends out plenty of winners at a more modest level and who has taken this rare opportunity to compete at Graded Stakes level with both hands. Sherman Brown is no stranger to riding big race winners, though, and was for a long time associated with the late Buddy Maroun’s many top notch performers. Even so, he had to ride one of the most memorable races of his career to land the spoils on Saturday and he admitted afterwards that he’d been worried both about his wide draw and that 1600m “might be a touch far.”
Brown went on to add that Go Indigo “gives you a kick when you want it”, a kick which allowed her to just hold off Ilha Bela and so deny champion trainer Mike de Kock a clean sweep of the five Graded and Listed races on the card. With the yearling sales season well and truly under way, there could not be a better time for Leon Erasmus to prove himself on the big stage and it won’t have escaped his attention that there is a half sister by Casey Tibbs to Go Indigo up for grabs on Book II of the Cape Premier Yearling Sale this weekend. The price has no doubt gone up more than a wee bit, but you can’t have it both ways!
Go Indigo is easily the best performed progeny of Indigo Magic, a royally-bred son of Gone West who suffered a serious injury in training and failed to win from only two starts. She is the first foal of Kabool mare Egyptian Reign, who won once over 1400m and who is a half sister to Listed-winning 1000/1400m performer Stirling Bridge. Go Indigo was bred by Barbara Sanne at her Oldlands Stud in Hermanus and failed to reach her R40 000 reserve when offered at the 2010 KZN Yearling Sale. She has now won five times from 12 starts, earning R580 825.
Betting World Gauteng Fillies Guineas (SAf-G2) (2/25)
Turffontein, South Africa, February 25, R500.000, 1600m, turf, good, 1.38.64 (CR 1.35.44).
GO INDIGO (SAF), 58.0, gr f 3, Indigo Magic (GB) – Egyptian Reign (SAF) by Kabool (GB). Owner J D Botha; breeder Oldlands Stud (SAF); trainer L J Erasmus; jockey S Brown (R312.500)
Ilha Bela (SAF), 58.0, gr f 3, Fort Wood – Ilha Da Vitoria (BRZ) by Candy Stripes
Hidden Beauty (SAF), 58.0, ch f 3, Victory Moon (SAF) – Hidcote Blue (SAF) by National Assembly (CAN)
Margins: nose, nk, 1
Also ran: Control Freak (SAF) 58.0, Bluroute (AUS) 58.0, Kalami (SAF) 58.0, Shadows In The Sun (SAF) 58.0, Katy’s Lane (SAF) 58.0, Extra Zero (SAF) 58.0, Awesome Beauty (SAF) 58.0, Mount Carmel (SAF) 58.0, Mary’s Pride (SAF) 58.0, Uptothemoon (SAF) 58.0, Salsabeel (AUS) 58.0, Rose Garden (SAF) 58.0, Solarium (SAF) 58.0