Emotion and sentimentality are two familiar trademarks of the Mike Azzie racing machine and the victory of the Australian-bred filly Mella Maria in the Greyville opener on Friday evening brought back some gloriously memorable flashbacks to the Gr1 Premier’s Champion Stakes run at the same venue, four years ago.
It was on 31 July 2011 that the then Mike Azzie-trained 2yo Potala Palace carried the same silks when also ridden by Gavin Lerena, to a sensational Gr1 victory, that was the cherry on top of a hat-trick of wins for the handsome son of Singspiel.
The yellow and purple silks became available and were taken over by the Azzie-Gericke Family Syndicate, a unique association of two close families, whose children attended school together.
“Tinus and Liz Gericke and their children are like our own family and we spend lots of time together. We thought it would be fun to take over the Potala Palace silks when they became available and race together. The parents have 25% each of Mella Maria and the children 25%,” said the ‘Azz Man’, who is obviously delighted with his yard’s form in KZN.
A typically astute Azzie bargain buy at A$2500 (about ZAR 23633 today) on the 2014 Gold Coast National Yearling Sale from the Widden Stud draft, Mella Maria is the first foal of the Gr2 placed Keep the Faith mare Sayahailmary.
Mella Maria was a first SA success for her dual GrI winning sire Star Witness, when she won on her Turffontein debut in February.
A 2014 freshman, Star Witness is a son of Starcraft and was a Champion Australian 2yo and 3yo, and won the Gr 1 Blue Diamond Stakes and the Gr1 Coolmore Stud Stakes. He has already produced two stakes winners, and six stakes performers.
Mella Maria is stakes placed and took her tally on Friday evening to two wins from just five starts. She is being aimed at the Gr1 Golden Slipper on July day and there was plenty to like about the manner in which she disposed of the Mike De Kock trained Sharp Princess.
The daughter of Dynasty is highly regarded by De Kock and stormed to an impressive 7,50 length success in a Maiden Plate for fillies and mares over 1400m at Scottsville last Saturday – interestingly in a faster time than the winner of the equivalent race for colts and geldings.
So the form looks half decent.
Australian bred gallopers won the first two races on the Greyville Friday evening programme, with the Mike De Kock trained O’reilly colt Muwaary following up with a resounding win in the second race, the male equivalent. He looks a really smart horse in the making.
Potala Palace set a new yearling record in South Africa in 2010 when purchased for R3,6 million.
His Gr1 winning turf champion sire Singspiel died in his prime, but nonetheless made a serious impact on the global stud book and is known locally through the exploits of his son Lateral.
Potala Palace has a truly quality English pedigree and he represents the Sadlers Wells x Shirley Heights cross that produced most of Sadler’s Wells best winners.
He stood his first season at Highlands in 2014.
The victory by Singspiel’s son Solow in the Gr1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday will also be of some interest.
He is by the late Darley stallion Singspiel, who also produced the likes of Dubai World Cup winner Moon Ballad, Ascot Gold Cup hero Papineau and multiple Group 1-winning mare Dar Re Mi.