Our veteran world-class jockey Felix Coetzee grabbed the stage of the R200 000 Gr3 Matchem Stakes run at Durbanville on Sunday, to reach the remarkable milestone of his 3500th winner. Felix ‘The Cat’ rode a clever race to score an impressive win on Justin Snaith’s Changingoftheguard.
The crowds turned out in numbers in beautiful weather at the country course for what must go down as the most well patronised Matchem Stakes in over a decade. It was fitting too that Felix Coetzee kept the historic win for the feature winner – and added to a memorable personal day by registering a hat-trick for the Justin Snaith yard, who scored a four-timer on the afternoon.
With the dramatic late withdrawal of 3yo Cape Nursery winner The West Is Wide, who injured himself in the starting gate, the field was reduced to nine runners. Joey Ramsden’s top 3yo King Of Pain was the whisper on course and went off a 9-10 favourite.
Karl Neisius took the handsome Depardieu to lead early from Shimmer And Shine ,with In A Rush and General Jubilation a few lengths further back. At this early stage of the race, Changingoftheguard and the favourite King Of Pain were five lengths off.
The configuration of the turn was particularly tight on the afternoon and this was noticeable as the jockeys steadied their, in some cases, awkward mounts around the bend . Turning for home , Neisius gave Depardieu more rein and he skipped a few lengths clear with In A Rush quickening and looking full of running down the inside rail.
Depardieu was swamped 300m from home as his lack of fitness came into play. It was at this point where the race was probably won and lost.
In a winning move, Felix Coetzee brought the strong galloping Changingoftheguard down the outside as In A Rush continued to stay on down the inside. King Of Pain was caught in a pocket and with the option of going inside or outside, jockey Glen Hatt momentarily hesitated before steering him around a few tired horses.
In the end, King Of Pain’s sideways shift for daylight cost him dearly and despite making up lengths as he hit full stride, Coetzee had flown the coop and Changingoftheguard was home and dry.
Trainer Justin Snaith said that the 4yo Changingoftheguard was only coming into his own after shin –soreness issues had set him back badly earlier on. He paid tribute to the patience of Barry Irwin of Team Valor who had given Snaith the green light to take their time with him.
Changingoftheguard had certainly come through the test of being thrown in the deep-end with flying colours and could develop into a more than useful contender for feature honours this season.
There were a few post-mortems too.
Ever the seasoned good sportsman, Cape Champion trainer Joey Ramsden must consider himself a desperately unlucky loser. He was left with a second and third stake cheque to bank and to lament a split-second jockey decision that went against the odds-on favourite King Of Pain.
King Of Pain, the deserved holder of last season’s Champion Juvenile title , looked a million dollars in the preliminaries and Glen Hatt had him well enough placed. But the possible lack of racing fitness and his inexperience around a very tight track, coupled with traffic issues, undoubtedly cost him the race. He is a horse to watch this season.
Ramsden also had the top-class In A Rush turned out to the minute after his abortive recent assault by road on the Emerald Cup. He was prominent early and stayed on well enough for third 1,65 lengths off the winner. The word from the third box is that following some glowing feedback from Jockey Andrew Fortune, the connections have a view on the Cape’s premier prize in the first week of February in their sights.
If this is the case, then trainer Joey Ramsden may be set for a smashing summer season with his best bowling attack at his disposal in years.
Dean Kannemeyer’s staying sort Taipan started his J&B Met campaign in fine style by staying on for fourth, 3,15 lengths off. Taipan did not have things all his own way after cornering awkwardly and with no gaps appearing as he looked ready to launch.
His stablemate Depardieu looked magnificent in the pre-race parade, but faded after showing pace to run sixth. He will come on with this run.
Priced at 9-1 Changingoftheguard won in a rather slow time of 86,14secs. That is almost 3 seconds outside the course record of 83,80secs, held by yet another Snaith runner of some years ago, in Signal Green.
Bred by Drakenstein Stud, who race him in partnership with Team Valor International and Vanashree and Anant Singh, Changingoftheguard was winning his third race and with 3 places from 8 starts for career stake earnings of R293 799.
He was a the original first stakes winner and now a first Group race winner for fast emerging Lammerskraal stallion Go Deputy, who celebrated another smart stakes winner in the Listed Michaelmas Handicap just a fortnight ago. Alec Laird’s capable Summer Cup hopeful Pessoa recorded his fourth win on the trot there.
Changingoftheguard is the best product of the Elliodor mare, Counter Foil, who won 2 of her 6 starts.
Assuming he is now over his problems, Changingoftheguard could be a horse going places and he should be infinitely better suited to the Kenilworth track.
Matchem S. (SAf-G3) (10/14)
Durbanville, South Africa, October 14, R200.000, 1400m, turf, good, 1.26.14 (CR 1.23.90).
CHANGINGOFTHEGUARD (SAF), 60.0, b c 4, Go Deputy (USA) – Counter Foil (SAF) by Elliodor (FR). Owner Drakenstein Stud, Team Valor and V & A Singh; breeder Drakenstein Stud; trainer J Snaith; jockey F Coetzee (132.609)
King Of Pain (SAF), 53.5, gr c 3, Greys Inn (USA) – Viva La Belle (AUS) by Defensive Play (USA)
In A Rush (SAF), 60.0, b c 4, Windrush (USA) – Sweet Whisper (SAF) by Chief Warden (SAF)
Margins: ½, 1¼, 1½
Also ran: Taipan (SAF) 60.0, Northern Conquest (SAF) 60.0, Depardieu (SAF) 60.0, President Of Pop (SAF) 60.0, Shimmer And Shine (SAF) 53.5, General Jubilation (AUS) 60.0