The Gary Alexander Racing Team produced an emotional longshot surprise in a race named after the greatest horse they have trained, when Lyle Hewitson put in a flying finish on Champagne Haze to win the R250 000 Gr3 Tommy Hotspur Handicap at Turffontein on Saturday.
Horseracing has a habit of scripting fairytales and this was one with many players.
Like the Alexander family, who trained the winner and produced such wonderful memories with the great Tommy Hotspur.
Like Lyle Hewitson, who rode a beautifully judged race and took a step closer to joining Michael Roberts and Gavin Lerena in his recordbreaking apprentice win tally.
Like Mick Goss and his Summerhill Stud, who bred the winner and his champion half-brother, Pierre Jourdan, and also claimed a terrific feat by producing the top three in this Gr3 cracker.
With the late withdrawals of Rivarine and Mujallad, reserve Golden Man come into the tricky 1000m handicap, with Pure Blonde hovering around the top of the betting boards as a lukewarm favourite.
After Talktothestars had jumped slowly and made some ground, Lyle Hewitson had Champagne Haze – with head turned slightly sideways – stone last at the halfway mark as the speed merchants Wrecking Ball and Rebel’s Champ showed the way.
With the revitalised 7yo Greasepaint bursting into the lead at the 350m, Hewitson angled Champagne Haze to the outside and he burst between two horses to catch the leader and win going away by 1,70 lengths in a time of 56,56 secs.
A thrilling victory and a great effort over a distance he has never won over and in what was meant to be a prep run for his Senor Santa double bid next month.
Roy Magner’s Greasepaint continues to earn his keep and ran another gallant race. While he has not won in ages, a 9th career victory looks within reach if he maintains this level of enthusiasm.
Pure Blonde was a neck back in third, with Tandava shading Sporting Monarch for fourth.
None of the 3yo’s stamped any claim for a possible Computaform Sprint berth. Angel’s Power appeared to go wrong in running and finished trailed off.
Lyle Hewitson, who is just four short of Gavin Lerena’s apprentice record mark of 284 winners, called Champagne Haze an ‘amazing horse’.
“He didn’t stay in the Charity Mile. But he put up some good work in the week and I came in confident.He was outpaced early, but gave when I asked,” he said.
Assistant trainer Dean Alexander was quick to commend Hewitson on his ride and went on to say that Champagne Haze was not far off his half-brother Pierre Jourdan. He thanked his team at home and also the owners for their loyal support.
Champagne Haze has won 6 races with 7 places from his 23 starts for stakes of a healthy R2 268 950.
A R280 000 CTS Johannesburg RTR Sale, the winner is by Kahal (Machiavellian) out of the prolific four-time winner Vin Fizz (Qui Danzig) and was bred at Summerhill Stud.
Next for the Senor Santa – and then on to the Computaform Sprint!
Gr3 Tommy Hotspur Handicap (SAf-Gr3)
Turffontein, South Africa, February 17, R250k, 1000m, turf, good, 56.56
1 – CHAMPAGNE HAZE (SAF), 61.0, b g 5, Kahal (GB) – Vin Fizz (SAF) by Qui Danzig (USA). Owner Messrs J F & L M F Wernars, Pravin Chetty, B G Gardner, A B Giuricich, J Labuschagne, G P Sadie & D A Simpson & Mesdames J P Gardner & A P Whicher; Breeder Summerhill Stud; trainer GM Alexander; jockey L Hewitson
2 – Greasepaint (SAF), 53.5, ch g 7, Kahal (GB) – Lady Red (SAF) by Russian Revival (USA)
3 – Pure Blonde (SAF), 57.5, b g 5, Kahal (GB) – Legally Blonde (SAF) by Qui Danzig (USA)
Margins: 1.70, 0.20, 1.00