The 2016 SA Triple Crown team of Azzie and Zechner unlimited were in action at Turffontein on Saturday where they teamed up with a gutsy Australian-bred filly to deliver a knockout blow for punters in the R400 000 Gr2 Joburg Spring F&M Challenge.
Karl Zechner is one of the most powerful riders around and he showed his race riding intellect with a perfectly judged ride to get the 45-1 Mella Maria to go from gun to tape in the 1450m feature.
With her stablemate Lazer Star jumping a weak favourite at 28-10 in a bid to repeat her 2015 win in this race, little attention was paid to the twice stakes placed 4yo Mella Maria, who was returning to action after an 11 week break.
Unable to get a position early, Zechner resorted to plan B and led the field, giving his mount a breather at the top of the lane, before riding her for his life and scraping home by 0,20 lengths in a time of 88,09 secs.
The Maine Chance team will be pleased with the way their Silvano filly Bella Sonata (16-1) came on late for second, while the Tarry 3yo Visuality also ran a promising race as she flew up late down the outside for third.
Lazer Star never recovered from her wide draw and ran well downfield. Azzie reported her to have been found to be in season in the saddling up enclosure and this may have affected her chances. It will be back to the drawing board with this once promising mare.
Winning rider Karl Zechner said that Mella Maria had surprised him.
“She is not a filly that likes to be bullied so I tried and be as kind as I could. I battled early to find a position so I took her forward. She enjoyed it there. I gave her a breather for 100m at the top of the straight and she ran her heart out all the way to the line,” he said.
Trainer Mike Azzie added that it was always nice to win a Gr2 for paddock value
“She deserved a win at this level and is a nice mare for stud now,” he confirmed.
Mella Maria has won 3 races with 4 places from her 16 starts and took her earnings to R454 700.
Azzie astutely purchased Mella Maria, a daughter of dual Gr1 winner Star Witness, for just A$2500 from the Widden Stud draft at the 2014 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.
A first foal of Gr2 placed Keep the Faith mare Sayahailmary, she had the distinction of being her sire’s first winner in South Africa when shedding her maiden on debut in February 2015 and on Saturday became his sixth stakes-winner.
Fresh from siring a Group race double at Caulfield with Global Glamour and Star Turn, Star Witness has hit a real purple patch since the start of spring and is the leading third crop sire by quite a margin with progeny earnings of $1.3 million since August 1.
Gr2 Joburg Spring F&M Challenge (SAf-Gr2)
Turffontein, South Africa, October 8, R400k, 1450m, turf, good, 1.28.09
1 – MELLA MARIA (AUS), 58.5, b f 4, Star Witness (AUS) – Sayahailmary (AUS) by Keep The Faith (AUS). Owner Azzie-Gericke Family Syndicate (Nom: Mr Tinus Gericke); Breeder bred in Australia; trainer MG Azzie; jockey K Zechner
2 – Bella Sonata (SAF), 58.5, ch f 4, Silvano (GER) – Bella Cantata (GB) by Singspiel (IRE)
3 – Visuality (SAF), 51.0, ch f 3, Visionaire (USA) – Personify (SAF) by Personal Hope (USA)
Margins: 0.20, 0.50, 0.80