Racing made a welcome return to Clairwood on Sunday 18 March after an enforced break at the South Durban track following the controversially abandoned meeting on 26 January this year.
Gold Circle took decisive action following that debacle and their caretaker team of retired Champion Jockey Garth Puller and former Gold Circle Executive Wayne Simpson appear to have worked wonders with the racing surface on a course that resembled a lake a matter of under a week ago.
In fact Chief Operating Officer Graeme Hawkins’ gloomy press release of Thursday was pleasantly off-target: We quote from that: “ And there does not appear to be any short-term respite. The forecast for Friday, Saturday and Sunday promises more rain and the prospects for racing over the weekend appear gloomy. Greyville is scheduled to host a night meeting tomorrow evening with Clairwood scheduled to race on Sunday.”
It is Hawkins’ closing statement that we will monitor with great interest in the ‘immediate future’: “Building a synthetic track on the inside of the grass track at Greyville forms an integral part of our immediate future development plans which will be presented to members and stakeholders for approval in the near future and I look forward to the day when abandonments become a thing of the past.”
With two KZN meetings completed in 48 hours, things are looking decidedly brighter and but for a dubious call by the Greyville Stipes in the final race objection on Friday evening, everything has gone much according to plan. The subjectivity and personal interpretation coupled with the immortal authority granted to the Stipes, makes the debate of the overruling of the Pinot Noir versus Storm Mayordomo a meaningless exercise. Duncan Howells, who owns a share of the gelding and his young apprentice Keagan De Melo deserve to feel cheated. Subject closed.
But the day dawned bright at Clairwood on Sunday 18 March, with the juvenile double feature of the King’s Pact Stakes for the fillies and the boys version, the Sentinel Stakes, offering a decent R100 000 apiece in two small fields.
It has been a fair few days for stallion Tiger Ridge and after Joe Soma’s promising Wagner scored his third winner at Turffontein on Saturday, the Brown-Robinson trained Counter Ridge scored her second successive win when scoring a smooth victory in the King’s Pact Stakes. Keagan Latham produced the Hyjo Stud –bred filly late to hold Fun Sunzi with Mike De Kock’s classy first-timer Alborada Lady running a cracker on debut to finish third.
Mike De Kock and Anthony Delpech had better luck in the Sentinel Stakes when the very speedy Reign As Kings powered on to win his third race from four starts. Trainer Ivan Moore and jockey Corne Orffer had run second in the fillies’ race and they had to be content with another second in the boys heat. Their My Jelly Bean tried hard but was not in the same league as the impressive son of King Of Kings, who looks headed for the tops.
Dean Kannemeyer showed his vast experience and threw punters a curved ball in a tactic most uncharacteristic of his training methods. His expensive Fort Wood colt Noordhoek Express had ran just 48 hours previously when unplaced over 1400m on Friday evening. But he took his place in the fourth race and stepped out in great style to win the Pick Six opener this afternoon.
With the atrocious recent weather making the KZN training tracks unplayable, the handsome chestnut would have needed the run on Friday and the run proved to be the grass gallop required to bring him on for today’s win.
While doubtless a pressure horse for a big owner, the well bred and imposing Wilgerbosdrift bred gelding was well suited to Clairwood’s long run-in and looks like he could now fulfill some of his early promise over a little more ground.
The embarrassingly slow pace that characterised the running of the final leg of the jackpot, an MR74 Handicap over 2500m, didn’t prevent jockey Chris Taylor from riding an absolute cracker from off the pace on eventual winner Spectroscope. And what a weekend of highs and lows it has been for Taylor!
An underrated lightweight rider, he was whisked by ambulance from Fairview on Friday afternoon to a hospital after his mount Mary Martha flipped at the start of the East Cape Fillies Nursery. But after a few hours recuperation and x-rays showing no fractures, he flew back to Durban to bravely fulfil his engagements.
Taylor was having his fifth ride on Adam Kethro’s Spectrum gelding and he said after his last run when clipping heels and narrowly being beaten at Greyville by Mainspring, that ‘we know how to ride him now.’
Stuart Randoph took the favourite Material Girl up to make the pedestrian pace but she was passed on the final turn by the grey Bolshevik who ran wide turning for home. A few flattered briefly in the sprint for home with Modern Royal looking dangerous and Assessment taking forever to get going. Taylor had been biding his time at the rear though, and he took the safe passage wide out to ride a sustained finish to win going away.
Spectroscope has now won two from 19 for R120 000 in stakes and he stays well when in the mood. He is out of the brilliant former Geoff Woodruff-trained Special Parade, who has not had the greatest of opportunities at stud.
The fancied Yogas Govender-trained Buragh tested the starter’s patience in the ninth race, a Conditions Plate over 1000m, when he burst through the gates twice and probably did nothing to enhance his chances. The race went to the Herman Brown/ Frank Robinson trained Antious who bounced back from a 113 day break to slam a nice bunch of sprinters. Antious had last been seen out on Summer Cup day when shocking punters with his 40-1 win in the Joburg Merchants.
Starting at 15-4 here, he came up somewhat on his connections – Robinson declaring very transparently after his feature winner earlier that Antious ‘would probably need it – if he gets up, then so be it…’. The Argentinian-bred son of Pure Prize has now won six of his sixteen starts and is improving all the time. He should be a major factor in the Champions Season sprints.
Adam Kethro completed a double after Spectroscope had won the eighth, when Stuart Randolph, deputising for Anton Marcus, rode a confident race to win the MR74 Handicap over 1200m on the long overdue Devon Gold. The son of Muhtafal won his second race from 22 starts.