The three year old champion’s name may suggest diversity, but his familiar trademark smacks of monotony. That is his now quite predictable streak of producing dazzling performances. Variety Club mixed the mile magic again on Saturday when he toyed with his four rivals to win the R700 000 Gr1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge run over 1600m at Clairwood.
In the final analysis the quality far outweighed the quantity of this high-class mile and even if forty horses had turned up, it is difficult to have seen anything dethroning this high-riding three year old on the afternoon, over what is patently his favourite trip.
After the bump and burn of the Cup Trial earlier, the likely tactics to be adopted in this Gr1 mile weighed heavily on the lips and minds of punters and racegoers, with the glaring absence of a genuine pacesetter the biggest cause of concern and doomsday speculation. But Variety Club’s backers needn’t have worried, even at 9-20.
The smashing chestnut was full of antics in the preliminaries, and South Africa’s leading horse behaviouralist Malan Du Toit was full value for his fee as he supervised the proceedings in the tense build-up.
Variety Club went into the starting gates and the race itself was quite a spectacle.
The colt jumped outwards and took Castlethorpe and Tales Of Bravery on a different course for a few strides as he overraced, before Marcus settled him, as veteran Karl Neisius took Castlethorpe to lead very briefly early on.
Marcus decided not to fight the majestic beast and opted for control as he let his mount stride three horse-widths off the rail marginally ahead of Castlethorpe and Tales Of Bravery, with What A Winter and Pierre Jourdan bringing up the rear.
Turning for home only four lengths covered the field as Variety Club continued to roll.
At this point the cynics may have been licking their lips as the head-on view distorted the picture of the real pressure at play. Tales Of Bravery flattered briefly as Karl Neisius switched Castlethorpe in, with Pierre Jourdan finding his stride. At the 200m marker it was evident that Variety Club was bluffing and going far too welland it was left to Marcus to complete the finishing touches for his second Gr1 win.
In the end only 3,75 lengths covered the five runners. Variety Club covered the trip in 95,78secs.
Castlethorpe ran on steadily for second 1,25 lengths behind, with the unblinkered Pierre Jourdan running on with plenty of pleasing zest to run a smart third. Gary Alexander must be smiling as must be Mike Bass. Neither of these two geldings would have done their Vodacom Durban July aspirations any harm.
Tales Of Bravery ran in blinkers following the successful introduction of the headgear for his Drill Hall Stakes win last month. Expected to be Anton Marcus’ biggest headache, MJ Byleveld gave the son of Kahal every chance from the saddle and he may not have enjoyed the dictatorial pace set by the Jooste horse out front of him. He is unlikely to harbour fantasies of ever beating Variety Club over a mile, but trainer Vaughan Marshall has probably left himself something to work on ahead of the July.
Trainer Joey Ramsden, who returned recently from a trip to his Northern Hemisphere homeland, was full of praise for what he called a ‘total team effort.’ His assistant, former jockey Lorenzo Karriem, has done a terrific job with the Goodhope Racing KZN satellite yard as well as loyal groomsman, Olsen Ndzilana.
Ingrid and Markus Jooste have also had tremendous success with the Englishman’s professional approach and we may just have seen the first son of Var to stand at stud on African soil. A potential scoop for Klawervlei Stud.
As has been well documented in these pages over the past twelve months, Variety Club was bred by Beaumont Stud and is by Var out of the Secret Prospector mare La Massine. He cost R425 000 as a yearling and has now taken his career earnings to R2 336 816 from his 9 wins and 4 places from 14 starts.
The three year old will now be returned to his home base for a well-deserved break. He is likely to make a reappearance in the Cape Summer Season. The red-tape and bureaucratic wrangling over export protocols will determine his racing career in the medium-term thereafter.
Dubai beckons but we would love to see him being given the green light to wind up some unfinished business in the 2013 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.
Rising Sun Gold Challenge (SAf-G1) (6/9)
Clairwood, South Africa, June 9, R700.000, 1600m, turf, good, 1.35.78
VARIETY CLUB (SAF), 58.5, ch c 3, Var – La Massine (SAF) by Secret
Prospector. Owner Mrs I and M J Jooste; breeder Beaumont Stud (SAF); trainer
J Ramsden; jockey A Marcus (R437.500)
Castlethorpe (AUS), 60.0, b g 4, Not A Single Doubt (AUS) – Park Heiress
(IRE) by Sadler’s Wells
Pierre Jourdan (SAF), 60.0, b g 5, Parade Leader – Vin Fizz (SAF) by Qui
Margins: 1¼, 1, ¾
Also ran: Tales Of Bravery (SAF) 60.0, What A Winter (SAF) 60.0