Salute Mike Azzie and his almost singleminded belief in the ability of an exciting and magnificently bred racehorse. Potala Palace’s return to a spark of the fire of his promise and potential shown as a Gr1 winning 2yo in Saturday’s R200 000 Gr3 Joburg Spring Challenge, would no doubt have had the veteran charismatic horseman smiling.
The son of Singspiel led from gun to tape in the 1450m contest under an inspired Gavin Lerena to win a cracker of a race and celebrate a long overdue return to the winner’s enclosure.
And long overdue is surely the understatement of the year.
The 2011 Gr1 Premier’s Champion Stakes winner had only subsequently added a Graduation Plate in November of that same year to his highly monitored CV, and was close to clocking up two years without a win, until Saturday’s Gr3 season forerunner changed things.
And the whole world has been watching Potala Palace’s progress since he was knocked down for big money at the National Yearling Sale of 2010.
On Saturday things went according to the Azzie plan after the big horse had (now fortuitously it seems) missed the Emerald Cup, and returned from a break following an unplaced Super Saturday run to Jackson in the Gr1 Champion’s Cup.
Potala Palace, a 5yo entire, kept going to thwart the challenge of the revitalised Link Man by a length in a time of 87,73 secs.
Wagner showed up nicely over a distance way short of his best, to stay on for third, ahead of Moon Of Rangoon, in fourth.
In a blanket finish, the favourite Love Struck moved up with every conceivable chance down the wide outside, but failed to go on with things, and ran a two length sixth. This would have sadly bombed the trebles and proven a bridge too far after Charles Laird’s new owner Alesh Naidoo had led in Nisa’s Love and Admiral’s Eye in his silks, after the fourth and fifth races, respectively.
Potala Palace was bred in Ireland and is the eighth foal and fourth known winner of Alzao mare Alignment, who never won a race in a short career spanning only four starts but who did finish second in a Gr3 race.
Alignment is also the dam of a Gr3 runner-up in Italy and is the half sister to the dam of multiple English Gr1 winner, Golan. The latter finished second in the Epsom Derby, as did his full brother Tartan Bearer.
There is no shortage of European Black Type in this family and it’s not hard to see why it took as much as R3,6 million to buy Potala Palace on the 2010 National Yearling Sale.
This was Potala Palace’s fourth win with 3 places from 13 starts and R608 650 in earnings.
Gavin Lerena has been aboard at all four of his wins, and will no doubt retain the ride into the Highveld Feature Season.
As for Potala Palace, we could yet hear plenty about this future sire prospect.Gr3 Spring Challenge (SAf-Gr3) Turffontein, South Africa, October 5, R200k, 1450m, turf, good, 1.27.73 POTALA PALACE (SAF), 60.0, b h 5, Singspiel (IRE) – Alignment (IRE) by Alzao (USA). Owner Mrs G J Beck, Mr M G & Mrs S Azzie, Mr A Taylor & Mrs P Taylor; breeder Highlands; trainer MG Azzie; jockey G Lerena Link Man (SAF), 60.0, b g 6, Toreador (IRE) – Western Smoke (SAF) by Among Men (IRE) Wagner (SAF), 60.0, b g 5, Tiger Ridge (USA) – Cosima Liszt (CHI) by Rich Man’s Gold (USA) Margins: 1, ½, sh hd