It took a former SA Champions Season Gr2 winner to burst the Gogetthesheriff bubble. The expectancy and hype of the Poly Triple Crown build-up was snuffed out in the space of just over 90 seconds at Fairview on Friday by the astute Justin Snaith and his regular PE jockey S’manga Khumalo – although nobody will argue the fact that Jacques Strydom and his Go Deputy chestnut won many more friends than they lost.
Gogetthesheriff has been the talking horse of South African horseracing since Abashiri, a fellow son of Go Deputy, won the SA Triple Crown at the end of April.
The local version, run for the first time as the WSB East Cape Poly Challenge, looked Gogetthesheriff’s for the taking after he had stormed home to win the first two legs over distances short of his best.
He was backed to odds on over the mile on Friday to lift the trophy – and a lovely bonus of R250 000 for owner Freddy Van Onselen.
But, as is so often the case in horseracing fairytales, the ending was not the one demanded by the majority of supporters and the multitude of fans that cheered the gallant gelding down to the start.
And ironically, it was to be another galloper with a heartwarming story behind his name that would upstage the dream.
The pace set by Zoo Biscuit, ahead of Ochoncar and Jet Explorer, was not the most enthusiastic one we have ever seen and after rearing in the stalls, Gogetthesheriff was settled closer to the action than usual by JP van der Merwe – who had sensed the easy gallop up front.
The order remained much the same all the way around, with the top three looking strong into the home run as Khumalo sent Jet Explorer on his way.
At that stage Gogetthesheriff was still seven odd lengths off but building.
Fortune had Ochoncar chasing the leader as Gogetthesheriff pinned his ears back and started turning on the jets at the 300m with the whips flailing all round.
In a thrilling chase to the wire, the hard-ridden 7-1 shot Jet Explorer maintained his advantage all the way to the line to beat Ochoncar by 0,25 lengths in a time of 94,97 secs – and gave Khumalo his 200th winner this term.
Ochoncar was 0,25 lengths in front of the flying Gogetthesheriff who, judging by his momentum, would have passed them in another 20m.
Jet Explorer’s recovery from death’s door after clipping heels and falling in the 2014 Rising Sun Gold Challenge has been nothing short of remarkable.
He has a real stamp of class about him and is relishing competing in the friendlier climes of PE.
Gogetthesheriff was certainly not disgraced in defeat.
In the end the half length short when it counted can be probably be ascribed to the debilitating combination of a lack of a decent pace and clever rides by two shrewdies in S’manga Khumalo and Andrew Fortune.
Gogetthesheriff will be back and the whole team behind him can look back on a dream shattered – but a job well done.
Jet Explorer is a son of the late champion sire Jet Master out of the one-time winning Icelander mare, Polar Star.
He was bred by Patricia Devine and runs in her and her husband Henry’s silks, which were also carried by the great Jet Master.
The winner has now won 6 races with 17 places from 37 starts for stakes of R982 310.
The Sheriff picked up R50 000 as the best horse of the series – and will be back in 2017 for more.