The R500 000 Gr1 Garden Province Stakes produced the match race expected with two of South Africa’s top fillies duelling all the way to the wire. The younger Princess Victoria won a brilliant race from the definitely not disgraced Ebony Flyer, and in the end the difference between winning and losing probably rested with the brilliant initiative of jockey Anton Marcus.
The word ‘champion’ is often bandied about with gay abandon by an overzealous racing media searching for the sensation and clamour that accompanies top-class racehorses. This is one instance where the victor and the vanquished can wear that tag with pride and honour, and we are privileged to have witnessed these two stars in action – probably and most sadly for the last time, too.
Justin Snaith’s Ebony Flyer had returned from a four month break when blowing the socks off her rivals in the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint at Scottsville at end May. She had the year younger Princess Victoria comprehensively beaten there, and while various factors were blamed for the Princess’ sub-standard run, the speculation probably unfairly took some of the lustre off a great victory.
Princess Victoria subsequently came out a fortnight later and redeemed her reputation with a smooth win in the Tibouchina Stakes. The two clashed again on Saturday, and drawn next to each other, a fascinating contest was always guaranteed.
Gauteng visitor Without Malice made the pace early and brought the pack into the home straight with Marcus taking the shortest route home down the inside rail. Bernard Fayd’herbe had been tracking Marcus and momentarily hesitated, before angling to midfield and getting the giant Jet Master into her stride. The bird had flown though, as the compact power pack of Princess Victoria gunned away and surged ahead into a crucial advantage with the line looming.
Ebony Flyer only found her stride in the final 100m and was gaining hand over fist. But too late as the Kotzen champion still had half a length in hand. Princess Victoria went off at a generous 22-10 and won in a time of 94,27 secs.
The famous red, white and black Jaffee silks worn by the daughter of Victory Moon, have won many feature races on July day, and most notably in recent times were carried by London News to win the Rothmans July in 1996.
Trainer Glen Kotzen has done an outstanding job with the brilliant Princess Victoria, and has shown great character and confidence by not panicking after her SA Fillies Sprint dip. He turned her out in fine fettle on Saturday to achieve her prime Champions Season goal.
In something of a dampner on the celebrations, jockey Anton Marcus was fined R500 for a contravention of the rules in that he misused his whip by striking Princess Victoria more than three times in consecutive strides in the closing stages. The champion jockey probably got carried away in the moment.
The Maine Chance Stud-bred daughter of deceased stallion Victory Moon, who also sired War Horse, winner of the Gr1 Golden Horseshoe earlier in the afternoon, Princess Victoria boasts an enviable record of 9 wins and 2 places from her 12 starts for career earnings of R1 987 342. She is out of the Rakeen mare, Platinum Princess.
Princess Victoria has earned a well deserved rest as the end of season looms and we await announcements of her future plans with great interest. An international campaign is surely on the cards.
As for the public’s 11-10 favourite Ebony Flyer, she goes to stud a winner of 8 of her 12 starts and a multiple Gr1 winner. One of the great fillies to have graced our turf in recent years. She should make one awesome broodmare.
The return match between Ebony Flyer and Princess Victoria could well be fought out by their daughters in the years to come. That prospect is just what makes this game so sentimentally fascinating.
Garden Province S. (SAf-G1) (7/7)
Greyville, South Africa, July 7, R500.000, 1600m, turf, good, 1.34.27.
PRINCESS VICTORIA (SAF), 59.0, b f 3, Victory Moon (SAF) – Platinum Princess
(SAF) by Rakeen. PG de Beyer, Maine Chance Farms, GA Jaffe et al; breeder
Maine Chance Farms (SAF); trainer G S Kotzen; jockey A Marcus (R325.000)
Ebony Flyer (SAF), 60.0, b f 4, Jet Master (SAF) – Sunshine Lover (SAF) by
Happy Archer (AUS), 60.0, ch f 4, Dubawi (IRE) – So Tempted (AUS) by Jeune
Margins: ½, 1, 2¾
Also ran: Mombasa (SAF) 60.0, Without Malice (SAF) 60.0, Engagement (SAF)
60.0, Frequent Flyer (SAF) 60.0, Give Me Five (SAF) 60.0, Felix The Cat
(SAF) 59.0, Up Front (SAF) 59.0, Louvre (SAF) 60.0, Secret Babe (SAF) 60.0,
Reason To Believe (SAF) 59.0, Country Rose (SAF) 60.0, Awesome Beauty (SAF)