On a landmark end-of-season afternoon, the R600 000 Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes dished up a host of firsts as the Gimmethegreenlight gelding Gunner powered home to score a surprise win – for some, at least.
The 2yo feature marked a first Gr1 victory for Varsfontein’s blue-blooded first season sire Gimmethegreenlight, as well as the winner’s breeders Nadeson Park and former jockey-turned trainer, Paul Gadsby.
Super Sunday played host to a few shaky episodes at the starting stalls and this race was a case in point, with the odds-on Zodiac Ruler going in first and standing for what seemed an eternity.
Misty Birnam appeared to get caught up in the gates, while the rest seemed to have no urgency to load. Ryder was the last to go in.
Do we hold the trainers or the starters responsible? Is it time to launch an investigation into loading procedures and also to schooling standards applied by certain yards? The NHA should be monitoring the stats as there is a perception of repeat offenders.
Zodiac Ruler was slightly slow off as the usually tardy starter Palladium swept into the lead in a notable change of tactics.
The son of Silvano led for home with Gunner last as Zodiac Ruler came under a ride.
At the 350m Palladium went out the back door as Africa Rising powered up the outside.
Africa Rising was quickly under pressure though as Gunner came scything through the middle with Zodiac Ruler finally finding his best stride down the inside.
In a run for the line, Strydom looked to have pulled off a miracle on Zodiac Ruler, but Brandon Lerena had other ideas as the 25-1 Gunner hit the front to win by a half length in a time of 99,53 secs.
Misty Birnam maintained his consistency despite the trauma at the start, to run third, with Africa Rising stopping to hold on for fourth.
Palladium ran stone last and it is difficult to understand the change of tactics adopted by his rider. A good few of the winners on the afternoon won from off the pace!
The winner had been beaten 1,75 lengths by Zodiac Ruler in the Gr1 Golden Horseshoe but enjoyed the extra 200m and looks a nice sort in the making.
He has won 2 races with 2 places from 5 starts and took his stakes to R493 500.
He was Gimmethegreenlight’s 16th winner of a terrific opening season for the son of More Than Ready.
Gunner was bred by Hassen Adams’ Nadeson Park and is out of the thrice winning Captain Al mare, Play Nice, who raced for Darryl Hodgson.
Gunner looks well bought at R200 000 on the Cape Premier Yearling Sale Book 1.
They will now be in major demand and champion freshman sire Gimmethegreenlight has two lots on offer at this weekend’s CTS August Two-Year-Old Sale:
Lot 43 – a half sister to a winner, this filly (intensely inbred to the great sire Halo), is from the family of high class fillies Princess Ofthe Sky, Love Is In The Air and her third dam, SA Oaks winner, Rootin’ Tootin’. This is also the family of current recent stakes winning filly O Tamara
Lot 71 – another inbred to champion sire Halo, this colt (a half brother to 2 winners) is out of a half sister to champion and G1 winner Scarena and this is the family of Horse Of The Year Trini Lopez.
Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes (SAf-Gr1)
Greyville, South Africa, July 31, R600k, 1600m, turf, soft, 1.39.53
1 – GUNNER (SAF), 60.0, b g 2, Gimmethegreenlight (AUS) – Play Nice (SAF) by Captain Al (SAF). Owner Mr N Lalla & Mrs A Lalla, Mr H Adams, Mr K T & Mrs M I Carelse & K & K Syndicate (Nom: Mrs K S Mahabeer); Breeder Nadeson Park; trainer PM Gadsby; jockey B Lerena
2 – Zodiac Ruler (AUS), 60.0, b c 2, Zoffany (IRE) – Sybarite (AUS) by Last Tycoon (IRE)
3 – Misty Birnam (SAF), 60.0, gr c 2, Toreador (IRE) – In The Mist (SNL) by Verglas (IRE)
Margins: 0.50, 0.75, 0.05