So little rain and just too little grass. Top jockey Anthony Delpech labelled the Clairwood track ‘disappointing’ after he won the fourth race on 28 August. He indicated that the bend, particularly, was slippery and said that there was too little grass on it.
The state of the South Durban track should be of deep concern. With the next meeting scheduled for just forty-eight hours time, it may be prudent for Gold Circle to consider relocating the meeting. And to having a serious chat to the track manager.
In spite of the parlous track surface the meeting went off without incident and there were no major upsets to speak of. Robbie Fradd was the top jockey with three winners, while MJ Byleveld and Sean Cormack rode a double apiece.
The Avontuur-sponsored Byleveld would have been very happy to turn his recent awful run around. Havingly seemingly lost the cushion of his great job with Allan Greeff in PE, he had only ridden two winners so far this month before today. But thanks to Ashburton-based Duncan Howells, his season tally doubled in the space of an hour. The pair won the first two races on the card.
Howells admitted that the Windrush filly Rashuli Breeze had him confused about what distance she was looking for and on MJ’s advice had stuck a pair of blinkers on and dropped her to the minimum trip. It worked like a charm and she won readily. In the second race, the lightly-raced good looking Shoe Horn showed great resolution under a determined Byleveld to get up and win the Maiden Plate over a mile. Daring Dancer and Cotton Eye Joe had cut each other’s throats up front for most of the trip, and the latter was still going strong inside the final 300m. But Shoe Horn dug down deep for a good win after racing three wide. Although that had ironically probably worked in the Mogok gelding’s favour as he found a good finish after racing on the better ground.
Sean Cormack has also found his feet in the past few meetings and he scored a nice double on the afternoon. His first win came in the third race, a Maiden Plate over 1600, when the long overdue Thursday Lunch finally kept on to shed his maiden. A willing front-runne, Cormack took the stable advice to let him gallop freely. His less experienced previous riders had tried to restrain him, which meant that he had inevitably fought them all the way. Today the son of Kabool just held off the late attention of Sugarformyhoney, who should not be long in winning. Assistant Trainer Frikkie Greyling, who was the architecht of the subtle change in tactics, hinted that the experience of Cormack had made all the difference
Joey Ramsden’s Lion In Winter had his final KZN outing this season in the fifth race, an MR 104 Handicap, and the race proved to be no more stressful than a routine grass gallop. After an incident filled start – jockey Sean Cormack said he thought that he was riding in the Singapore Derby for a short while – the talented son of Western Winter loped along in midfield while Thunder Creek did his usual thing up front. Once given his head, Lion In Winter strode away to beat Danish Silver and Chindit. Ramsden Assistant Lorenzo Karriem saddled Lion In Winter, and has done a great job for the yard on the East Coast this Champions Season.
In this race, Draconian was yet another short priced Charles Laird favourite to fail in the past two meetings and the Stipendiary Report may be worth a glance. The consistent gelding ran closer to last than first, after appearing to have every chance.
Robbie Fradd rode the final three winners of the afternoon, two for the bang in-form Sean Tarry, who was also victorious in Saturday’s Vaal sand feature with the resilient The Mouseketeer. Fradd piloted the good-looking Al Mufti colt Always Al to an easy win in the seventh race. The long-striding colt won his second race from four starts, and looks to be going places. His trainer said afterwards that he may consider gelding him as he felt he was not putting it all in yet. Tarry indicated that this was the only way he could consider trying him over more ground. He is one for the notebook.
Fradd then followed up in the very next race, an MR 66 Handicap for fillies and mares over 1450m, on the Dennis Bosch-trained Lady Tamara. The Tiger Hunt filly had won what looked like an ordinary maiden race at her previous start, but her trainer confirmed that Fradd had made heavy weather of that win. Today she was all fight as she got the better of the consistent Americas Cup, who ran a cracker from the wide draw.
Sean Tarry and Fradd closed the day with the American-bred Nikki T, who won a great race with more ease than the margin may suggest. Robbie Fradd had the El Corredor filly in midfield as Sporty Thong cut out a fair gallop up front. She came forward about 300m from home and only got past the pacemaker in the final 20m to win going away. Tarry paid tribute to his brother Mark, who had imported the filly, and said that as a horse with a daisy-cutting action, it was a highly meritorious win on the going.
So now about that grass and the going. Is somebody going to explain to us what exactly is going on?