Milnerton trainer Harold Crawford proudly carried his giantkiller label at Greyville on Friday evening courtesy of his one-horse raiding party Perovskia when he opened the 2018 SA Champions Season in glorious fashion with a victory in the R500 000 Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes.
The opening feature of South Africa’s national championship season was decimated by scratchings which reduced the field to just nine runners. But the thrilling finish more than made up for the lack in numbers, as Callan Murray rode a beautifully judged race to get the unheralded Vodacom Durban July hopeful Perovskia home in a Cape top-two finish, with the year younger Undercover Agent capitulating late.
Corne Orffer took recent Byerley Turk winner Undercover Agent out to lead after Joburg visitor Will Pays had lost two lengths at the jump.
Into the home run Captain Aldo and Prince Of Kahal chased the leader, who was relishing his task as Orffer gave him some more rein.
Callan Murray had been stalking the leaders though and he switched the 4yo gelding Perovskia out for a run at the 300m.
Undercover Agent dug deep but Perovskia was too strong and he asserted himself under a well balanced ride to give longstanding owner Mike Mort his second Drill Hall Stakes winner and got the verdict by a neck in a time of 82,16 secs.
Will Pays had no luck at the start, as he often does, but ran on stoutly for third with the gallant topweighted 7yo Sail South in fourth.
Winning rider, the Avontuur-sponsored Callan Murray, who would have enjoyed the confidence booster ahead of Champions Day on Saturday, congratulated Harold Crawford.
“Perovskia didn’t look like a horse in need of a run. He was in great condition. I just turned up to ride him.I was always sure I was going to get the leader at the line, ” he said.
Trainer Harold Crawford, who celebrated his first feature success in thirty years with the same horse in February, was elated:
“He is about 3 kilo’s below the best. I thought he would enjoy this. But it’s always easy afterwards! My daughter Michelle has been here looking after him, so she deserves the credit.”
Michelle Crawford congratulated owner Mike Mort and thanked her host, trainer Dennis Bosch, as well as Lance Pagel, who had given them confidence after a gallop the previous week.
She said Perovskia would head to the Cup Trial next at the same venue on 9 June.
A 2015 BSA National 2yo Sale R70 000 graduate, Perovskia was bred by Gary Player Stud and is a son of Equus Champion 3yo Russian Sage (Jallad) out of the one-time winner What A Gal (Qui Danzig).
Perovskia has won 6 races with 5 places from 14 starts and took his earnings to R710 750 – ten times his purchase price!
Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes (SAf-Gr2)
Greyville, South Africa, May 4, R500k, 1400m, turf, good, 1.22.16
1 – PEROVSKIA (SAF), 57.0, b g 4, Russian Sage (SAF) – What A Gal (SAF) by Qui Danzig (USA). Owner Mr J M Mort; Breeder Gary Player Stud; trainer HWJ Crawford; jockey C Murray
2 – Undercover Agent (SAF), 55.0, b c 3, Captain Al (SAF) – Secret Risk by London News (SAF)
3 – Will Pays (SAF), 58.5, b g 6, Imperial Stride (GB) – Rattlebag (SAF) by Jallad (USA)
Margins: 0.15, 1.00, 2.00