Kavanagh has had something of a chequered career, losing a Gr1 race in the boardroom as a two-year-old and always seeming not to quite stay 1600m, but he is a deadly 1400m performer on his day and he confirmed it by winning the Hawaii Stakes over that distance on the standside course at Turffontein on Saturday, writes MATTHEW LIPS.
A high class field lined up for this conditions event and it was Pierre Jourdan, previously unbeaten from two starts over the course-and-distance, who went off as the marginal 7/2 favourite despite being drawn one from the outside in a field of 13. Snowdon had beaten Kavanagh in a conditions race over the Vaal 1400m earlier in February and was the 75/20 second favourite, with Kavanagh (4/1) and Dancewiththedevil (9/2) next in line on bookies’ boards.
Kavanagh had an awkward 11 draw to deal with and found himself some way off the early action as first Rebel Knight then Two Tone took turns to set a solid pace, with Lochlorien and Buy And Sell prominent ahead of Arabian Mist. Pierre Jourdan was also some way back, with Dancewiththedevil at the rear after losing a couple of lengths at the jump. In contrast to her usual frontrunning style, Gibraltar Blue was held up in around midfield.
Rebel Knight regained the lead not long after turning for home, with Kavanagh starting to make good progress down the inside as Snowdon also started to run on from off the pace. Pierre Jourdan was brought out wide for his challenge, but it was Kavanagh who picked it up around 200m out and Mike de Kock’s four-year-old kept going well under Anthony Delpech to reverse Vaal form with Snowdon, beating the latter by 1.25 lengths into second place. Rebel Knight stuck to his guns all the way to the line and was a further half-length away in third, with Pierre Jourdan the same distance behind him in fourth.
Pierre Jourdan was done no favours by his draw, and it is also distinctly possible that Gary Alexander’s stable star prefers it further than 1400m when competing against top class opposition. He remains fully capable of winning a big race this Gauteng season, with the Gr1 Horse Chestnut 1600m and obvious target. Dancewiththedevil was running on well when the race was all over and finished 3.5 lengths behind the winner in sixth place. She was racing for the first time since her superb Gr1 Summer Cup win three months earlier and is another possibility for the Horse Chestnut 1600, a race she won in such impressive fashion last season.
The paucity of good races over 1400m may well force Kavanagh’s connections to once again take their chances over a mile. Kavanagh was gelded after a disappointing effort in the Gr2 Charity Mile last November and has not been tried beyond 1450m since. It is possible that he will now cope with 1600m better than when he was an entire, but he didn’t look to have all that much left in the tank at the end of Saturday’s contest and he probably would be hard pressed to beat all of the same horses again over an additional 200m.
Kavanagh – who was named after the TV lawyer played by the late John Thaw – is from the first South African crop of the Storm Bird stallion Tiger Ridge, who formerly stood with considerable success in the United States. He is the fifth foal, fourth winner, and first Stakes winner produced from the American-bred Seeking The Gold mare Quaestio, who won one race from only two starts and who is a half sister to Argentine champion sire Mutakkdim. Owned and bred by Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift stud, Kavanagh has won six times from 18 starts, earning R1 431 875 in stakes.
As an aside, Mike de Kock sent out Atyeb and Dunraven to fill the first two places in the Listed Aquanaut Handicap over 2450m later on the Turffontein card. Thus, the whisker by which Ilha Bela lost the Gauteng Fillies Guineas cost the champion trainer victory in all five of the Feature events at the Johannesburg city track on Saturday. Not even the master can win them all.
Hawaii S. (SAf-G2) (2/25)
Turffontein, South Africa, February 25, R300.000, 1400m, turf, good, 1.24.52 (CR 1.21.41).
KAVANAGH (SAF), 56.0, b g 4, Tiger Ridge – Quaestio by Seeking The Gold. Owner & breeder Wilgerbosdrift (SAF); trainer M F de Kock; jockey A Delpech (R187.500)
Snowdon (SAF), 55.0, b g 4, Western Winter – Antonia’s Law (SAF) by National Assembly (CAN)
Rebel Knight (SAF), 55.0, b g 5, Jet Master (SAF) – Darby Game (SAF) by Elliodor (FR)
Margins: 1¼, ½, ½
Also ran: Pierre Jourdan (SAF) 57.5, Galileo’s Destiny (NZ) 55.0, Dancewiththedevil (SAF) 57.5, Solo Traveller (SAF) 60.0, Gibraltar Blue (IRE) 55.5, Moroccan (ZIM) 55.0, Buy And Sell (SAF) 55.0, Two Tone (SAF) 55.0, Arabian Mist (saf) 56.5, Lochlorien (SAF) 55.0