Phillipi trainer Brett Crawford saddled his third winner in the Cape’s flagship race when the Australian-bred Whisky Baron continued his meteoric rise through the ranks with a superb win in the R5 million Gr1 Sun Met, celebrated with Mumm Champagne, at Kenilworth on Saturday.
The 4yo Whisky Baron made it five straight wins since gelding six months ago, when he romped to a popular victory in South Africa’s richest group race in front of a festive crowd at the sunswept Southern Suburbs track.
Crawford celebrated a champagne day at his home-track with wins in the Gr1 Investec Cape Derby and the inaugural Kuda Sprint rounding off the highlight of training first – and third – in the big one.
He won the then J&B Met with Futura in 2015 and Angus, a horse he said was fashioned in much the same mould as Saturday’s star Whisky Baron, in 2003.
For the 40 year old Greg Cheyne, who is the current SA national jockey log leader, it was a dream first Met win on a horse whose name would have been a marketing plus for the longstanding previous sponsors!
Cheyne, who is retained by Ridgemont Stud, who recently announced their purchase of the iconic Highlands Stud, has been aboard at five of Whisky Baron’s six victories, and the pair have formed a formidable combination.
Corne Orffer took Captain America out to lead The Conglomerate, with Gold Standard and Legal Eagle in attendance, and plenty of jostling for position early on.
Captain America brought them for home and looked to be comfortable out front as Whisky Baron found himself some ten lengths back, with plenty of work to do.
All the action was on the outside as Legal Eagle and Gold Standard challenged the leader Captain America, who was drifting out under pressure at the 400m.
The gap between the tiring pacesetter and Legal Eagle became tight for Gold Standard, and Richard Fourie was forced to check his mount out as Legal Eagle chased hard.
At the 300m Legal Eagle looked to be in with a shout, but Greg Cheyne appeared on the scene with Whisky Baron in full stride at the 250m.
The enthusiastic galloper took off to beat SA Horse Of The Year Legal Eagle by 1,50 lengths in a time of 122,71 secs – close on 5 seconds faster than the Investec Cape Derby run earlier.
For Legal Eagle, who recently won his second consecutive L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, it was a case of history repeating itself, after the filly Smart Call had beaten him last year.
The ever present Captain America held on gallantly for third, a further 0,30 lengths back and survived an objection by Selangor Cup winner Gold Standard.
The 3yo Gold Standard ran on well but after his late check merely stayed on for fourth, without really looking a winner over the final 100m.
He looks a decent sort in the making and will be an exciting 4yo.
The challenge from USA-bound Champions Cup winner Marinaresco also failed to materialise and the son of Silvano ran a 4,05 length fifth. He remains a puzzle and may well have been flattered by that Champions Cup success.
The Paddock Stakes winner Bela-Bela ghosted down the inside rail looking very dangerous, but had no answers, stopping to run seventh.
The rest, including July winner The Conglomerate, were well beaten.
The Avontuur-sponsored Greg Cheyne, who was registering his first Met win and whose major previous success was on the ill-fated Big City Life in the 2009 Vodacom Durban July, said that winning the Met in his hometown was ‘something special’.
“I tracked a bit deep early on in the back straight and we managed to find the fence – the pace was genuine – I saw Legal Eagle and knew he was my lead. Whisky Baron gave me everything he had. I must say a massive thanks to Ridgemont Stud – Wayne and Belinda (Kieswetter) are the driving force and to Craig and Ross (their sons) who own the winner, a big word of thanks and congratulations”.
“I am a firm believer that when horses get into winning ways it gives them an edge. He had a lot of ground to make up in the straight and looked to be labouring at one stage. But then he picked it up nicely and went on well. A great run from Captain America too,” he said.
Bred by Arrowfield Stud, Whisky Baron was a A$50,000 Inglis Easter purchase for C Roscoe/ J Ramsden. He became the ninth stakes winner for Redoute’s Choice half-brother Manhattan Rain.
He is the only Black Type horse among four winners out of the unraced Sinndar mare, Tazkara (Fr).
Whisky Baron is unbeaten as a 4yo and has won 6 races with 7 places from 13 starts for stakes of R3 446 375.
A great race – just such a pity at the way the public were kept in the dark about the objection.
Gr1 Sun Met (SAf-Gr1)
Kenilworth, South Africa, January 28, R5 million, 2000m, turf, good, 2.02.71
1 – WHISKY BARON (AUS), 57.5, b g 4, Manhattan Rain (AUS) – Tazkara (FR) by Sinndar (IRE). Owner Messrs C & R Kieswetter; Breeder bred in Australia; trainer BJ Crawford; jockey G Cheyne
2 – Legal Eagle (SAF), 60.0, b g 5, Greys Inn (USA) – Young Sensation (SAF) by National Emblem (SAF)
3 – Captain America (SAF), 58.0, b g 6, Captain Al (SAF) – Requista (SAF) by Fort Wood (USA)
Margins: 1.50, 0.30, 1.00