First off, I must start this week’s column by correcting a misnomer. Contrary to popular belief, our brand new July winner is not named for a tomato. The French word for apple is Pomme, and the French word for Gold is d’or, thus Pomodoro is named for his dam, Golden Apple.
Good. Now that we’ve got that sorted, on to the racing !
July day has come and gone and I feel a little like a kid after Christmas. All the planning, hoping, waiting and suddenly it’s all over in a blur and I’m sitting in a heap of empty boxes and shiny paper. Or as it turned out this year, a confetti of betting slips. As with Christmas there were a few big presents, some unexpected surprises and always those weird gifts that make you question the whole ‘it’s the thought that counts’ thing… So I have a box of golden apples and rotten tomatoes to dish out for the day.
A friend once said that with the limited racing press available, there are not enough column inches to devote to everyone who should get a mention and it is true. Everyone on the track – whether an owner, a trainer, a rider and most especially the horses, all have stories and all deserve a bit of the spotlight and never more so than on one of our biggest race days of the year. So I’ll kick off my July day report with Keagan Latham riding a blinder to get Rocky Bay across the line in the first in a very close-run affair. Congratulations to the Brown/Robinson team and the connections of Messrs Reusch, De Lacy, Fourie and Whittaker –a win is always sweet, but the bubbly must taste that bit sweeter on a big race day ! It is worth mentioning Robin Scott too, who not only bred Rocky Bay, but owns the 2nd and 3rd horses across the line ! With the big race seemingly an open affair, it also seemed prescient for the card to be opened by a Miesque’s Approval with sibling Eton Square lining up for the big race later on. Was it a sign ?
Favourite Dubai Dizzy was nowhere to be seen in the second, but Gavin van Zyl and Brandon Lerena delivered in the form of Gray’s Champ – another promising sort from Greys Inn who really seems to be firing at the moment. Team G Racing were in flamboyant mood (and dress!) to lead in their handsome colt and this really looks to be one to be noted for the coming season, as was the Zackey trained Agadez who flew up for third.
Vaughan Marshall has become a familiar face in our winners enclosures this season. He has some serious fire power in his string and Tribal Dance certainly looked the business on the canter down. He ran as good as he looked and the Sandown Stud graduate clinched his second Gr3 in remarkable style for the late Roy Eckstein.
I like marathon distances as they are usually contested by the older horses and feel like being in the company of old friends. I have a long-standing soft spot for relentless DKR galloper In Writing and the gutsy chestnut dictated matters from the off in the Gr2 Gold Vase. It’s hard to lead from wire to wire and he very nearly pulled it off too, but Seal showed that he doesn’t have a shelf-full of staying awards for nothing. Despite shouldering nearly top weight, he put in a powerful finish under Robbie Fradd to win by the best part of a length. Proud breeder Dr Ian Heyns said it was a real thrill to be associated with such a top quality horse.
The starter incurred the ire of Mike de Kock, but once things got settled, the Gr1 Golden Slipper gave our up and coming female stars a chance to showcase their talent. Things looked uncertain for a bit, but then the beautiful grey import Rumya found her stride to win by a 0.75 length margin that rather flattered her opposition. Bred in New Zealand by her Arabian owner from an American stallion out of an Australian mare (with a Japanese grandsire), this rather exotically bred filly looks very classy and is another to add to the notebook.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
Our juvenile colts took to the turf next in the Gr1 Golden Horseshoe and Jeff Lloyd showed that the Guv’nor was still in charge, bringing the very imposing War Horse home with aplomb. I was so impressed by the beautiful colt that I made some calls. It turns out that this son of Victory Moon was bred at Varsfontein Stud by the exceptionally charming Carolyn and Jaco Erasmus. Colleague and senior manager Carl De Vos was instrumental in the breeding as he not only helped them secure the dam but also assisted in arranging the mating to Victory Moon. It was one of those magical matings where the progeny received the best of both worlds and Victory Moon’s leg and height combined with the strong, robust body from the mare to produce an eye-catching individual. The colt was born and raised on the farm and Carolyn says War Horse is a proudly Varsfontein product. Corne Spies spotted him on his pre-sale rounds of the local studs and persuaded Mr Englezakis to stretch to R275k at the inaugural Cape Premier sale for the colt called Batian. However, just before his debut, Mr Englezakis spotted an ad for the film War Horse. Hasty enquiries were made, unbelievably the name was available and, well the rest is history. War Horse is taking his new name seriously and has matured into a strong, robust individual. Corne rates him as easily among the better horses he’s trained and with his temperament reputedly matching his ability and still an entire to boot, this must be an exciting prospect for the future. Better yet, the Erasmus’ still have the dam and a few more soldiers in hand.
The Big Apple
And suddenly it was time for the main race and everything came to a standstill for those heart-stopping few minutes. The agony, the ecstasy, the delight and the disappointment –emotions shifted between the extremes with nearly every stride. And just when it felt it could not get any more tense, that unbelievable finish !
After past near misses with Buy and Sell and Successful Bidder, one can only imagine the mix of emotions Chris van Niekerk might have felt, but leading in a horse that he not only owned, but bred too must have been mighty special. The joy and satisfaction of the big moment were plain to see and he summed it up beautifully saying “You dream of it, but when you taste it it’s even better than the dream. Unbelievable. I can’t tell you how I feel”. And then the wonderful soundbyte that is winging its way all over the international racing press – ‘I will remain a fool and buy more!’
The Key to Success
Trainer Sean Tarry remains wonderfully modest about his achievement, insisting that he can take very little credit but as they say, the secret to success is usually plain old hard work. And there’s certainly been a lot of that going on. Sean credits Saturday’s success on two strokes of genius – the ride by Piere Strydom and the veterinary expertise of Baker McVeigh who diagnosed and worked hard to treat a niggling injury in the lead up to the race. It was apparent that the colt was not 100% and Baker McVeigh finally tracked it down to an inflamed shoulder bursa. The medics, along with physio Beth Shaw and the rest of the team worked tirelessly to monitor and rehabilitate the injury and with progress measurable on a daily basis, Sean was confident that July day would produce a different horse to the one from the Daily News.
Sean points out that this horse has the versatility to win over 1450m at the Turffontein inside track as well as a bruising encounter over the Derby 2450m on the standside track and ensured that Piere understood his charge thoroughly. Piere said that we all need a bit of luck, but occasionally we have to make a bit of our own. People who excel at what they do possess a knack of doing the impossible and making it look effortless, in which case the best compliment I can pay is that Piere made it look easy. He was full of praise for how the horse had been prepared and when I asked what Pomodoro felt like to ride, he answered ‘He carries you well, like all the best horses’.
I touched briefly last week on the fact that Mark Tarry had bred Pomodoro’s dam, Golden Apple and been instrumental in designing her matings. He chuckles that anyone could have let the colt start at such long odds. With Golden Apple only beaten a short head into second in the Woolavington, he knew she was a Greyville horse. And as for the sire: ‘’Jet Master is Jet Master’ says Mark simply.
It was poignant that Mr & Mrs Devine were also in the stands on Saturday and witnessed the spectacle alongside the Johnson family who bred Jet Master. Mrs Devine paid tribute to their wonderful stallion by saying that ‘Jet Master just keeps on exciting us & surprising us’. And long may that continue.
To leave the bubbles and bonhomie for a moment, there are always stories within stories, and one of the biggest of the day was surely Smanjemanje and that incredible ride by Grant van Niekerk. I commented recently that Smanjemanje just seems to produce an extra gear for Grant and he ran his heart out on Saturday. The Stipes report (and race replay) reflect that Smanjemanje was bumped several times, necessitating some vigorous riding to straighten him out and keep him on track. Grant’s reaction has earned him a week’s holiday, which seems a little unfair under the circumstances and had things panned out differently, one cannot help but wonder what might have been. But Mr Zackey was in good spirits when we spoke on Monday and reported that Smanjemanje had a few speedy cuts, but had pulled up well and was already back home again.
Mr Zackey started in racing as an owner, then progressed to breeding and finally took out his own license and says it gives him tremendous pleasure, particularly when he trains a horse for friends and family (Smanjemanje is part-owned by his daughter and son-in-law). “We have a lot of fun”, he says in his gruff voice.
I ask about his July experience. It turns out that this is his second July – he conditioned Singing Sword back in 2007 and says he still keeps the old boy at the yard as a pet. “He stands in the first box and all the horses have to pass him on their way out and when they come back in again. He tells them off if they run badly!” he chuckles. He has been inundated with well wishes from all over the world after Saturday, but somehow I can’t see any of the fuss going to his head.
We chatted about the Cornell Collar which seems to be so successful on his colt and he laughed off my question about why he uses steels shoes rather than alumites – ‘Makes no difference’, he says. ‘I use steel gallopers. They’re heavier than allies of course, but they last twice as long, so you don’t have to keep re-shoeing. It’s more cost effective and it’s better for the horse’s feet. And anyway, if a horse can run, he will”. Horse sense, old school style !
It is worth noting that Smanjemanje’s result had a direct influence on the breeder’s championship, carrying Summerhill into a comfortable lead. History books seldom make room for second place, but I feel this year may prove an exception.
The rest of the basket
The rest of the races pass by in a bit of a blur, but the lights came on and ‘Superman’ Marcus chalked up a good win on Rio Carnival in the 8th for Charles Laird and Mr & Mrs Jooste. I also loved the coordinated blinkers!
Alec Forbes hit the boards next on the 6YO Dominion Royale filly Upity Ann for Alyson Wright and a delighted Mr Serfontein.
The Garden Province Stakes produced the hoped for battle of the fillies and Anton Marcus rode Princess Victoria to a tactical victory to chalk up a second win for Victory Moon. Delighted connections Peter de Beyer and Georgina Jaffee lavished praise on Glen Kotzen’s Woodhill Team and it’s fun to note that Frikkie Greyling who mans their KZN operation, also looked after Princess Vic’s sire on his international exploits.
Ebony Flyer was gallant in defeat on her swansong and will now head off to stud to visit Trippi. She will be a sad loss to our tracks, but we wish her well.
Pommes a la Normande
Depardieu and connections added a continental flavour to proceedings. Shouldering their top weight with ease, Karl Neisius piloted them home for an easy victory over She’s A Stunner by the best part of a length for Kannemeyer Racing and the Jooste/Kantor partnership.
How Do You Like Them Apples?
Jagerbomb lived up to his name in the last and was smartly brought home by young Keagan de Melo for KZN favourite, Dennis Drier who has a vested interest in the colt via his wife. The connections were out in force to lead in their winner, from one of the last crops by Joshua Dancer.
I tried the SABC 3 broadcast and while I just about survived Jeannie D flouncing around calling everyone daaaaahling, Camilla Walker-Hartman was enough to have me reaching for an early gin. While the racing was out of the top drawer and the camerawork was wonderful, she gets my vrot tomato for the day as she seemed entirely unprepared and uninformed about her subject and the errors came so thick and fast that my eye rolling muscles went into spasm. Thank goodness for Yogas Govender and David Raphael who kept things on a fairly sensible footing. For once I was very grateful for Tellytrack !