Racing’s constitutional court may have handed down its verdict at the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Gallops last Friday at Summerhill, but a possible candidate for Chief Justice wasn’t even wearing a wig. Recent overseas results proved again that there are few better judges of horseflesh in this game than former champion jockey Basil Marcus.
Never mind Jay Peg or Desert Links. Try Ato or Flax.
The 54 year old Basil has a terrific record with selecting horses at Sales, but would probably be the first person to confirm that training racehorses has probably not been as pleasurable and rewarding as riding them.
It is a funny old balance between managing impatient people and difficult horses in trying conditions. Although there are men like Mike De Kock and Joey Ramsden that somehow manage to make it look glamorous. And even almost a stupidly easy game at times.
Marcus, who took his training licence out in Cape Town in 2004, and saddled close on 300 winners in 5 seasons, won the 2007 Cape Guineas and Derby with subsequent Dubai Duty Free and Singapore International winner Jay Peg as well as the Gr1 Canon Gold Cup with the Summerhill Stud bred Desert Links.
He played the dual roles of proud father and SA’s most super-qualified assistant trainer, as he watched his 23 year old son Adam saddle his first runner at Kenilworth in the first race last Saturday at Kenilworth. It was a quiet start. The Ashaawes 3yo filly Priceless Jewel was slow away and ran green, before staying on under Karis Teetan for seventh and 5,25 lengths off Fly By Night.
The reversal of professional roles means that the pupil has outgrown the teacher and the 23 year old Adam will be using all his Dad taught him in the seven years he trained at Milnerton.
Adam is starting small with only twenty odd horses in his string and has some way to go to reach the 120 strong string managed by his father.
As a jockey Marcus completed his apprenticeship with Theo De Klerk in Cape Town and was champion jockey the same season.
He rode for thirty years and won two Metropolitans. In the UK he is best remembered for his association with the Clive Brittain-trained Game Plan, who was runner-up to Salsabil in the 1990 Oaks and won the Gr2 Pretty Polly
Having used that as a stepping stone to Hong Kong, where he was the dominant jockey in the 1990s and won 7 championship titles, Marcus returned to Britain for a second stint in 2000 and 2001, which included memorable wins at Epsom on Derby day and at Glorious Goodwood on the Rod Millman-trained juvenile Whitbarrow. He also won the Gr 1 Gran Criterium on the William Haggas-trained Count Dubois.
But it is Basil Marcus’ buying track record that makes for awesome reading. This emerged during a chat with a well-known breeder this past weekend
He bought all of Desert Links at the 2005 Ready to Run for R110 000,Jay Peg at Vintage 2005 for R130 000, Flax at the 2008 National 2yo Sale for R230 000, Ato at the 2009 National Yearling Sale for R850 000 and was instrumental in Cape owner Etienne Braun signing for the Surging River, Spanish Train at the 2009 Cape Sale for R230 000.
Ato is the winner of the 2011 Gr1 Krisflyer Sprint. He won the Gr3 SAAS Fee Stakes, a conditions race, over 1400m for trainer Pat Shaw. Bred by Maine Chance Farms by Royal Academy , Ato is now a 9 time winner, and has earned over $1.5 million in prize money.
Another Maine Chance bred, Flax scored an easy win the Second leg of the Triple Crown Series – The $500,000 G1 Raffles Cup over 1800m. He has now won all three of his starts in Singapore. Owned by Newbury Racing, Flax was offered at the 2008 Grand West Yearling Sale, but failed to make his reserve. Marcus signed the winning chit at the 2008 2yo sale.
A six-year-old by Silvano out of the Elliodor mare Bejewelled Spring, Flax was having just his 11th race start on Sunday and registered his sixth victory on top of two minor placings and prizemoney in excess of $800,000 for Newbury Racing.
Another Marcus selection to win overseas this past weekend was Spanish Train. The son of Surging River won a class five handicap over 1000 metres for trainer David Hill. Bred by Zandvliet Stud, Spanish Train is owned by Newbury Racing.
Cape seafood supremo Etienne Braun, who signed the chit for Spanish Train, conceded magnanimously that while he had ‘loved him’, Basil had given him the added confidence and endorsed the choice.
He said that there were obviously other ‘interested parties’ and thought it did sound rather ludicrous now when one considers that he had gone to R230 000 for a Surging River. But he observed that hindsight made everybody an expert in racing.
Braun explained that Spanish Train was taken over by Newbury Racing’s Gael and Dennis Evans in a package deal and he wished them the best of luck as ‘extraordinarily fortunate owners.’
Braun, who has not exactly been an unlucky owner himself, had some of the good fortune rub off on him and raced the top Klawervlei stallion Jay Peg as well as Desert Links. A Cape Guineas and Derby winner, Jay Peg went on to international fame winning and breaking the track record in the Gr1 Dubai Duty Free and the Singapore Airlines International Cup. He currently stands for a fee of R30 000 and his first crop are now 2yo’s.
Desert Links won the Gr3 Cup Trial and the Gr1 Canon Gold Cup before pursuing his racing career overseas.
Braun is looking forward to what he calls ‘the next phase.’ That’s observing and watching Jay Peg’s growth as a stallion. “ He is not going to produce the precocious sorts. They may need a bit of time. But if they have half his heart and a tenth of his ability, I will be thrilled,” he said.
For now he is looking forward to 8 December, when his current favourite horse Cap Alright steps out in the Southeaster Sprint to take on What A Winter. Braun acknowledged that Cap Alright was no champion.
“It’s one all between us. Im looking forward to another showdown as we got pretty close to him in those final strides last Saturday in the Pinnacle Plate. And we will be better off at the weights next time. That’s what I love about this game. Even with an ordinary horse with a big heart and a giant stride, we all get the chance to lower the champion’s colours every so often.”