Gavin Lerena and trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren put the cherry on the top of an unforgettable day as the Australian-bred New Predator charged home to win the R1 million Peermont Emperors Palace Gr2 Charity Mile in grand style.
A man who reserves his best for the major days, Lerena was in devastating form boasting the unique achievement of riding all four legs of the rain and lightning delayed jackpot – three for the fast growing-in-stature Van Vuuren, and the fourth for Lucky Houdalakis.
Lerena and Van Vuuren are a relatively young combination that are proving particularly lethal on the big days and after their Grand Heritage Day celebrations on 1 October, the power pair were back in sizzling form, with New Predator confirming his status as a fast maturing miler with plenty of scope.
Those who recalled a near burgle of the Gr1 Horse Chestnut Stakes by Lerena and New Predator, were amongst the fan base that saw the Australian bred colt start a lukewarm 7-2 favourite, in a decent field that included July winner The Conglomerate, and the Gr1 Gold Challenge big-hitter Mac De Lago, who had to lumber 62kgs.
With Captain Aldo showing the way, Lerena had New Predator perfectly positioned in the box seat.
At the 400m, Raymond Danielson went for broke down the outside on St Tropez, as New Predator took on a wave of challengers.
With Deo Juvente and Saratoga Dancer chasing powerfully, New Predator put his ears back with the high-riding Lerena cheekily keeping his balance and his head down.
At the 200m the race was still in the balance, but New Predator was taking control as he reversed the longshot trend of recent years to score rather cosily in the end by 0,60 lengths in a time of 97,44 secs.
Ashburton trainer Duncan Howells can’t be long in opening his account from his Gauteng base and the performance of the Mambo In Seattle gelding Saratoga Dancer, who stayed on well for second, and who will relish the 2000m of the Sansui Summer Cup, must be very encouraging.
Chase Maujean rode his heart out on 2015 Summer Cup bridesmaid Deo Juvente, who is another who could take his place in the big one at the end of this month after his 0,80 length third here.
The winner’s stablemate, Grand Heritage victor Irish Pride, hesitated once or twice in traffic late, but ran a real cracker for fourth.
St Tropez, who loomed up so dangerously at the 400m, hit a brick wall late and petered out for a 6,50 length seventh placed finish.
Winning owners Jarryd and Lawrence Wernars, who enjoyed a blinder – they also have an interest in Gr3 Starling Stakes winner She’s a Giver and own Gr3 Graham Beck Stakes star Doosra – sadly missed the race to catch a flight to London.
Trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren enjoyed a remarkable four winners on the day.
He thanked his loyal owners, his staff and Vets – and in the typically self-effacing Mike Azzie style went on to say that he was not an easy man to work for – but mainly on the major days!
With his feature strike-rate, nobody’s complaining.
Purchased by Kerry Jack Bloodstock and a Magic Millions A$50k weanling buy, New Predator was bred in Queensland Australia by D. Austin and is a son of Darley’s Galileo stallion New Approach.
New Predator is out of the Fastnet Rock mare, Head Over Heels, a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Presently and Gr3-placed Another Time.
The lightly raced New Predator has earned R1 430 250 and has won 4 races with 7 places with a lucky 13 starts in total.
In a day filled with magic memories, Gavin’s cousin, professional boxer Kevin Lerena, just happened to be the charity celebrity paired with the winner!
A Gr1 cannot be far off for the strong galloping New Predator.
Gr2 Charity Mile (SAf-Gr2)
Turffontein, South Africa, November 5, R1 million, 1600m, turf, good, 1.37.44
1 – NEW PREDATOR (AUS), 58.5, b c 4, New Approach (IRE) – Head Over Heels (AUS) by Fastnet Rock (AUS). Owner Messrs J F & L M F Wernars; Breeder bred in Australia; trainer JJ v Vuuren; jockey G Lerena
2 – Saratoga Dancer (SAF), 56.5, b g 5, Mambo In Seattle (USA) – Super Elle (SAF) by Model Man (SAF)
3 – Deo Juvente (SAF), 58.0, b g 5, Trippi (USA) – Circle Of Life (SAF) by Complete Warrior (ANY)
Margins: 0.60, 0.20, 3.60