There is just something to admire about the heart and character of the Greys Inn gelding Chekilli. The forward running Alec Laird-trained 4yo went all the way to register his first ever stakes victory when scoring a heartstopping win in the R400 000 Gr2 Hawaii Stakes at Turffontein on Saturday.
Chekilli narrowly went one better here after running a cracking second behind the seasoned campaigner Whiteline Fever in the same race last term.
A top class determined ride by Fransie Herholdt on Saturday saw Alec Laird’s charge hold a flying Halve The Deficit at bay for what felt like an eternity over the final 200m, to avoid a near repeat of the 2014 disappointment for his connections – when beaten by yet another horse in the Van Niekerk silks from the Tarry yard.
Chekilli, who went off at 6 to 1, despite a smart recent return-to-form win, has had a rollercoaster ride after signalling his intentions as something special early on when winning his first four races on the trot.
When pushed as a potential classic candidate to go beyond the sprints, Chekilli didn’t quite produce his speed prowess – but on Saturday he showed he stays about 1350m on a good day – the balance was really all on heart.
Fransie Herholdt had Chekilli quickly out of the gates with the Cape raider Readytogorightnow appearing to jump sideways and in the process losing valuable ground.
Chekilli towed Halve The Deficit and Chestnut’s Rocket all the way around and Herholdt probably won the race at the 500m marker as he geared up and grabbed a valuable three lengths on his field.
At the 250m marker Halve The Deficit was making good ground under S’manga Khumalo on his inside,and with Ashton Park being switched to the centre by Anthony Delpech and finishing well, the leader appeared to have a serious race on his hands.
But Chekilli dug deep as Herholdt put his head down and rode for his life – getting the preferred verdict by a head in a time of 84,30 secs from Halve The Deficit with Ashton Park producing a promising first Gauteng run in third.
The filly Winter Star loomed dangerously and stayed on into fourth.
Disappointments of the race included the favourite Sabadell who faded out to last, after moving through halfway down the straight, and the Snaith’s Readytogorightnow, who never showed after that dicey start.
Chekilli is a son of Greys Inn out of the thrice winning Joshua Dancer mare, Phillippa Johnson.
Bred by Rosedene Stud, he races in the interests of Mr & Mrs Chesty Wolfaardt and Mike Destombes.
Chekilli has won 6 of his 13 starts for 4 places and took his career earnings to R716 875.
Gr2 Hawaii Stakes (SAf-Gr2)
Turffontein, South Africa, February 28, R400k, 1400m, turf, good, 1.24.03
1 – CHEKILLI (SAF), 58.0, b g 4, Greys Inn (USA) – Philippa Johnson (SAF) by Joshua Dancer (USA). Owner Mr & Mrs H J Wolfaardt & Mr M Destombes; Breeder Rosedene Stud; trainer AG Laird; jockey F Herholdt
2 – Halve The Deficit (SAF), 60.0, b g 6, Right Approach (GB) – National Banker (SAF) by Fort Wood (USA)
3 – Ashton Park (SAF), 58.0, b g 5, Battersea Park (SAF) – Hunters Prayer (SAF) by Jet Master (SAF)
Margins: 0.20, 0.55, 1.75