Veteran trainer Mike Azzie and his business partner son Adam ticked an emotional item off their career bucket list, when they saddled their first winner of a race named after a great horse trained by Mike’s Grandfather, George.
The trainer of over 2000 winners, including three July Handicaps and three consecutive Holiday Inns, the late George Azzie described Hawaii as the best horse he had ever trained, before the son of Utrillo left our shores to continue his career in the United States.
And on Saturday, the family had plenty of reason to celebrate a champagne performance by a 6yo who had to overcome some trauma and a slow start to win a race close to their hearts.
Maybe it’s just one of those things, but South African racing has a problem sticking to timetables. The R250 000 Gr2 Hawaii Stakes launched the Turffontein Guineas Day feature programme, going off over ten minutes late, thanks to shoeing issues and troublesome horses.
The Mike Azzie team endured some nailbiting minutes at the start after their stable star Will Pays and the Sean Tarry-trained Matador Man had to be reshod.
After the farrier had completed his work, the topweighted Kangaroo Jack and the filly She’s A Giver weren’t overenthusiastic about the task at hand, and added to the delay.
When they eventually were sent on their way, regular slow-starter Matador Man, and the eventual winner Will Pays, were slow out, as Sir David Baird and Amazing Strike disputed the lead ahead of Captain Aldo.
Sir David Baird looked dangerous at the 500m as fellow 3yo Full Mast almost moved into contention.
But making up many lengths in the straight, it was the latter’s stablemate Will Pays, who ground away under regular pilot Craig Zackey, reeling in his free-striding stablemate at the 250m to drew away to an impressive win by 0,75 lengths over the late-finishing Coral Fever in a time of 83,46 secs.
Coral Fever was running fresh off his Met bid and he showed plenty of toe in the blinkers and dropping back in distance.
The winner’s stablemate Full Mast was threatening for a long way and ran a nice third ahead of the consistent Amazing Strike.
Kangaroo Jack appeared to go wrong in running, finishing close on 30 lengths back.
Craig Zackey said his mount had been working well all week and he was confident about winning the race for the Azzies.
Will Pays was bred by Northfields Stud and is by Imperial Stride (Indian Ridge) out of the top-class six time winner, Rattlebag (Jallad).
This was his biggest career win to date, with a scoresheet of 10 wins with 11 places from 32 starts for stakes of R1 148 900.
Gr2 Hawaii Stakes (SAf-Gr2)
Turffontein, South Africa, March 3, R400k, 1400m, turf, good, 1.23.46
1 – WILL PAYS (SAF), 59.0, b g 6, Imperial Stride (GB) – Rattlebag (SAF) by Jallad (USA). Owner Messrs B J D Pepper, S G du Toit, M A Green & Y Jackson; Breeder Northfields Stud; trainer MG & AA Azzie; jockey C Zackey
2 – Coral Fever (SAF), 59.0, ch g 5, Judpot (USA) – Coral Tree (SAF) by Rich Man’s Gold (USA)
3 – Full Mast (SAF), 56.0, b g 3, Go Deputy (USA) – Full Card (SAF) by Western Winter (USA)
Margins: 0.75, 1.00, 0.95