The high quality Silvano gelding Marinaresco put his best foot forward to set up a magical moment in a fairytale farewell for veteran trainer Mike Bass as the curtain came down on the 2015 SA Champions Season at Greyville on Sunday.
The thrilling victory by the Mauritzfontein Stud-bred 3yo, under a superb ride by Grant Van Niekerk, played out on a day of thrills and high drama. And on a stage that fought a life and death battle for survival after an uncertain few months – in a week that would have added fifty shades of grey to Gold Circle’s front-man, Graeme Hawkins.
In the end the R1 million Gr1 Mike & Carol Bass Champions Cup would go down in racing history as a gracious gesture to a living legend of the sport. And the final turf race of the season, as the racing operator, no doubt with a sense of relief, called time on what is hopefully to prove a priority item in the new term.
The Marinaresco good-luck story first saw light of day in the Cape Winter Series.
The smart galloper walked away with honours in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, only ever won once previously – that by his much saluted stablemate Pocket Power a decade earlier.
Pocket Power, like Marinaresco, raced in the Marsh Shirtliff silks,and dead-heated with Dancer’s Daughter to win the July in 2008.
With Marsh Shirtliff itching to win the sought after trophy again, it was decided to give the Winter Series a miss with Marinaresco and go for the July.
Some thought it crazy – and when they drew 19 for Africa’s Greatest, the writing was on the wall as the tail-pullers popped the thumbs-up.
As history will show, only the brilliance of Piere Strydom was to be the eventual undoing of Marinaresco, who started his engine a fraction too late on that first Saturday of July, and chased The Conglomerate in vain for a July runner-up berth.
The opportunity to win the Gr1 Champions Cup named in Mike & Carol’s honour, while probably not part of the original plan, was obviously too tempting to miss and facing a beatable field, Marinaresco delivered the goods on a beautiful Sunday to add the cheer to a Gr1 cherry, forty years in the making.
When Marinaresco came for home closer to last, the ghost of The Conglomerate appeared from nowhere and was back to haunt him, as St Tropez drifted across and closed the gap that Van Niekerk so dearly wanted – and the writing once again looked to be on the wall.
But riding a determined finish on a superior horse, the young jockey rode for his life and enjoyed the luxury of easing up before the line, as Marinaresco stormed home to beat a late finishing Judicial by 1,25 lengths in a time of 112,75 secs.
The always game No Worries was a neck back in third, with Saratoga Dancer running a great race in fourth.
The rest is history as they say.
Labelled by Grant Van Niekerk as ‘better than Pocket Power’ – a big statement from a guy who was still at school when the Bass champion was thrilling us – Marinaresco naturally looks to be an exciting player in the Bass-Robinson plans for next term.
He has won 4 races with 6 places from 11 starts and took his stakes total to R1 956 325.
Marinaresco is a 2014 BSA National Yearling Sale graduate. He was purchased by Mike Bass Racing for R1,3 million.
Bred by Mauritzfontein Stud, he is by Silvano out of the two-time winning Fort Wood mare, Gay Fortuna.
All that is left to say is…Goodbye Mike. Good luck Candice!
Gr1 Champions Cup (SAf-Gr1)
Greyville, South Africa, July 31, R1 million, 1800m, turf, soft, 1.52.75
1 – MARINARESCO (SAF), 57.5, b g 3, Silvano (GER) – Gay Fortuna (SAF) by Fort Wood (USA). Owner Messrs M W Bass, F Green, Bryn Ressell & N M Shirtliff; Breeder Mauritzfontein Stud; trainer MW Bass; jockey G v Niekerk
2 – Judicial (SAF), 59.0, b g 5, Miesque’s Approval (USA) – Lady Advocate (SAF) by Dolpour (IRE)
3 – No Worries (SAF), 59.0, ch g 6, Kahal (GB) – Coastal Waltz (SAF) by Rambo Dancer (USA)
Margins: 1.25, 0.10, 1.25