A typically Cape winter’s afternoon at Durbanville on 15 June had punters ducking for the umbrellas and protective gear as a couple of the favourites went missing in the mud.
The benefit of a measure of homework and industrious attention to detail would have saved some though as the recent maiden winner Platinum Cat ripped through late under Morne Winnaar to win her post-maiden run at a generous 20-1. Wide awake students of form may have seen her name amongst the Winter Oaks nominees for Kenilworth on 25 June and possibly included her on the strength of the astute confidence of trainer Glen Kotzen.
The general consensus of opinion an hour or two before the first race was that the prospects of racing at the country course didn’t look particularly bright with fairly heavy rains falling and waves of grey clouds rolling across the Peninsula. Gold Circle took the wise decision of having three jockeys gallop the course in mid-morning and the green light was given by the riders. The majority of the Cape jocks have been starved of action and earning opportunities in recent months as they don’t all travel the length and breadth of South Africa earning six-figure annual incomes, so it was a welcome change of attitude if we dare call it that.
While she may have only been recording her second win and that in a lowly rated MR 74 Handicap, Platinum Cat is a wonderful example of faith and patience on the part of the owners and solid judgement by her trainer. The R120 000 National Yearling Sale graduate started her career rather slowly and didn’t look to be headed anywhere particularly fast with four straight unplaced runs from four starts early on. She started turning the corner at the beginning of April and has earned at her subsequent four starts with a win at her last outing beating the very moderate, as we have observed previously, Lady Dappleloo in a Qualified Maiden Plate at Kenilworth. It doesn’t get too much weaker than that, although a certain Lady Special was twenty lengths behind her when she won and she came out and won well on Saturday.
So the racing is quite weak and the form, like the pace in a lot of Cape races, is somewhat muddling. But full marks to trainer Glen Kotzen for seeing the potential in the daughter of Tiger Ridge and nominating her for The Oaks. Whether she runs is another story as that is just ten days hence, but she has certainly earned a chance there after the decisive manner of this win. Her owners include some knowledgeable, passionate and extremely lucky racing people. Raymond Deacon is ‘Mr Lucky.’ His July horse, stallion Big City Life, may have finished down the field in Monday’s Gold Challenge, but he bounced back today with a bang by drawing 2 in the big race. Kobus Nieuwoudt is all crazy passion and loves his horseracing. Jean Warren is the wife of local bloodstock man and racing fundi Tony Warren, who has been around our racecourses for years. He knows what to look for when buying horses and doesn’t hold on to promising non-performers. So all told a happy team of winners and win lose, draw or even run in The Oaks, good luck to them.
The Woodhill Farm – a beautiful place near Paarl in the Boland – team Kotzen celebrated a nice treble on the day with Platinum Cat’s win. They had opened the day with a winning trifecta as they filled the first three places in the opener, a Qualified Maiden over 2000m . The twisted irony here was that the most fancied of their three, Docksider at 4-10, ran behind the other two. They say it happens! But they would have grabbed the result with open hands and punters who took those cramped odds about Docksider would have learnt that oft repeated lesson again! Then Tibisi won the jackpot opener, a Maiden Plate over 1400m. It was a great win from a poor draw and the ease of his win promises more to come. He was the first success at winning wide out , but after Andrew Fortune had got it right, his colleagues followed suit. It is likely that by this fifth race the going down the inside had cut up quite badly in any event.
Owner Ebrahim Khan has had his ups and downs in racing and his brown and white silks have been carried by some top horses over the years. His Jallad stallion Battersea Park, who stands at Hemel-En-Arde Stud near the Whale village of Hermanus, recorded a first win when Riaan Van Reenen’s Syon Park won the second race, a Maiden Juvenile Plate for fillies over 1000m. Devan Ashby rode a rare winner here as he guided the pacy little girl home, patting her triumphantly as he eased her up. She no doubt slept a little late this morning as she was carded as a reserve runner, but Van Reenen said he was happy to get a chance – but had no confidence from the poor draw. Battersea Park only ran four times for one win but was very fast. He is by Jallad out of the brilliant Hancock Park, who was trained with great success for the late Laurie and Jean Jaffee by David Payne at Summerveld in the early nineties.
Apparently Khan has covered his own mares with Battersea Park and while Van Reenen’s post-race comments regarding him being a ‘top stallion to come’ may be a tad optimistic in the early days of a long walk to success for a sire, we will be monitoring his offspring with interest.