After an emotional hangover that probably lasted most of the week following the Vodacom Durban July, Hong-Kong bound Grant van Niekerk bade his Kenilworth home base a fond farewell at his final racemeeting at the Southern Suburbs venue this season.
He produced a a polished ride aboard the Justin Snaith-trained Doublemint to win the R250 000 Gr3 Highlands Winter Derby.
Van Niekerk flies out on 4 August with Callan Murray to fulfill his Hong Kong Jockey Club contract, which is scheduled to last six months.
And he will be pleased with his feature success as Klawervlei stallion Twice Over followed up his big victory in the Vodacom Durban July with the 3yo Do It Again.
The Foster family bred Doublemint, winner of the 2018 Politician Stakes, stormed clear of his field in the final 300m to register a facile win.
The SA Jockey Academy may want to consider revisiting the syllabus for the all important subject of pace before the year is out, with riders in the 2400m final leg of the Highlands Cape Winter Series again hanging on for dear life when the stalls opened with nobody keen to go.
Given the heavy going, there would probably naturally be concerns amongst the jockeys to conserve energy. But if pace makes the race, why is there always such an issue with it?
In the end it was the proven stayer Rock My Soul who carted Spring Man and Power Tower along at a fair gallop.
Van Niekerk rode a confident race from midfield and when he produced Doublemint at the 350m pole it was race over.
The smart chestnut strode away to win by 3,25 lengths in a time of 154,56 secs.
It was the Snaith Racing team’s third consecutive Winter Derby success after African Night Sky (2017) and July third-placer Elusive Silva (2016).
Spring Man was thereabouts for a long way and the son of Marchfield stayed on for a well beaten second, with Australian-bred Ballad Of The Sea another half length away in third.
The rest plodded in the stamina sapping underfoot conditions.
Doublemint, who has won 4 races with 5 places from 10 starts for stakes of R482 750, had been placed in the first two legs of the series, which were won by the absent Rainbow Bridge.
The winner was bred by Alec Foster and is by Twice Over (Observatory) out of the one-time winner Nepeta (Tale Of The Cat).
He should be an interesting SA Champions Season prospect in 2019.
Gr3 Winter Derby (SAf-Gr3)
Kenilworth, South Africa, July 14, R250k, 2400m, turf, soft, 2.34.56
1 – DOUBLEMINT (SAF), 60.0, ch c 3, Twice Over (GB) – Nepeta (NZ) by Tale Of The Cat (USA). Owner Mr A N & The Hon Mrs G R Foster; Breeder AN Foster; trainer J Snaith; jockey G v Niekerk
2 – Spring Man (SAF), 59.0, b g 3, Marchfield (CAN) – Diorella (SAF) by Fort Wood (USA)
3 – Ballad Of The Sea (AUS), 59.0, b g 3, Teofilo (IRE) – Sea Song (AUS) by Fasliyev (USA)
Margins: 3.25, 0.50, 2.25