Australian-bred horses made it a feature whitewash at Kenilworth on Saturday as Mike de Kock’s Ektifaa booked her place in the Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas with an impressive show of power and courage to win the R400 000 Gr2 Choice Carriers Championship.
After Joey Ramsden’s Table Bay had carried the flag for the boys a half hour earlier, the lone Aussie in a field of fourteen produced a less flashy, but nonetheless gutsy showing, to win the afternoon’s big one, the first Gr2 of the 2016/17 Summer Of Champions.
The Shadwell Australian nursery has been a great feeding ground for Mike de Kock with names like Ertijaal, Banaadeer, Majmu and Entisaar, coming to mind.
It is early days but Ektifaa looks a filly to follow.
She was looking around at her new surroundings as she went to post, reared from her wide draw and was then aggressively ridden to track the pacemaker Red Light Girl all the way.
At the 300m she hit the front and was never headed, despite serious challenges emerging all around her.
Young Avontuur-sponsored Callan Murray was riding a perfectly balanced finish and Ektifaa held on to win by 0,75 lengths in a time of 86,99 secs from KZN visitor Sail (a classy daughter of Philanthropist) and the consistent Final Judgement.
Considering the fact that Ektifaa had reared at the start and been ridden with vigour, it was hardly surprising that the flying Sail was cutting the deficit at the line.
Sail’s showing underscored the early good form shown by the Dennis Drier raiding party, who opened their account on Wednesday and followed up with The High Life winning an MR 86 Handicap on Saturday.
Glen Kotzen’s Gr2 Golden Slipper winner Final Judgement was always thereabouts and showed up well after a 12 week break to run a further 0,30 lengths back in third.
Our suggested dark horse, the Mike Robinson-trained Smokey Affair made up lengths late for fourth, only 2,05 lengths off the winner, and she remains a listing in our summer notebook.
The long-time pacemaker Red Light Girl had no luck. Drawn wide, she was made a lot of use of to lead and then had Sail run on to her heels at the 100m marker. She somehow picked up her momentum to hang on for a 2,15 length fifth. A brave effort!
The previously unbeaten 33-10 shot The Secret Is Out never got into the race from her wide draw first time around the bend and plodded into a 3,50 lengths seventh slot.
Assistant Nathan Kotzen did the honours for De Kock and thanked Sheikh Hamdan, racing manager Angus Gold and the MDK Racing team.
Jockey Callan Murray rode a mature race in trying circumstance – it is not easy when the champion trainer issues instructions to ‘ride her aggressively’ and things go pear-shaped in the stalls.
“I wanted to be up there but she reared before the gates opened. But we managed to get into a beautiful position in second spot on the fence. In the straight she was looking to lug out, but was going too well and went on nicely,” he said.
Ektifaa has shown all the signs of a progressive 3yo.
She has stepped up from her maiden, to a handicap and now to Gr2 level with aplomb and took her win tally to 3 from 6 starts with 3 places for stakes of R408 750.
Ektifaa is by More Than Ready and the first foal of Stellar Vinia (Varick), bred by John Camilleri’s Fairway Thoroughbreds.
She is thus a half-sister to champion NZ sprinter and miler Calveen along with stakes winners Kosi Bay, Fireworks and Striker, and was offered at the 2015 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale in the draft of Segenhoe Stud, selling to Shadwell Australia for $600 000.
Gr2 Choice Carriers Championship (SAf-Gr2)
Kenilworth, South Africa, October 29, R400k, 1400m, turf, good, 1.26.99
1 – EKTIFAA (AUS), 58.0, b f 3, More Than Ready (USA) – Stellar Vinia (AUS) by Redoute’s Choice (AUS). Owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum; Breeder bred in Australia; trainer MF de Kock; jockey C Murray
2 – Sail (SAF), 58.0, b f 3, Philanthropist (USA) – Cutty Sark (SAF) by Fort Wood (USA)
3 – Final Judgement (SAF), 59.0, ch f 3, Judpot (USA) – Final Claim (SAF) by Proclaim
Margins: 0.75, 0.30, 1.00