Jockey Anton Marcus won his third Met and set a South African record for stakes earned on one afternoon when he produced a polished performance to get the Ideal World gelding Rainbow Bridge home as trainer Eric Sands celebrated his icebreaker in the Cape’s historic flagship race.
Riding his 100th Gr1 winner on African soil, Marcus, who registered his first Met winner 26 years ago on the Millard ‘Galloping Goldmine’ Empress Club, had taken the plunge, and a medium-term tactical decision, to abandon his long time champion partner Legal Eagle in favour of the younger and progressive Rainbow Bridge.
It was a move that paid handsome dividends on a sunny festive Kenilworth afternoon that saw the past SA champion bank over R7,85 million by winning the big race, as well as the two CTS races – for Sean Tarry and Vaughan Marshall, respectively.
Partnering Rainbow Bridge for the first time, Marcus had the high-class gelding twelve lengths off the gallop set by Head Honcho who led Milton, Made To Conquer and 2018 winner Oh Susanna, with Doublemint further back and Tap O’Noth trying to get in to some groundsaving space from his wide draw.
Into the home run, Head Honcho continued to gallop powerfully as Marcus looked for a split on Rainbow Bridge, with Do It Again cutting a path from behind him down the inside.
With Tap O’Noth leaning on to Rainbow Bridge and the fit Head Honcho plugging away up front, Marcus maintained his nerve as the seconds ticked out. But the back to best Rainbow Bridge was sitting with a double handful and he sliced through.
Keagan de Melo was pushing Head Honcho out, but Rainbow Bridge was in full flight and the 4yo drew away to hold the late challenge of Do It Again by 0,75 lengths in a time 122,96 secs – the second fastest in the last six runnings after Whisky Baron’s 122,71 secs carrying 2kgs less in 2017.
Strongly fancied to grab the July-Queen’s Plate-Met treble, Do It Again had the tables turned on him by being given plenty to do – and arriving too late. There can’t be much between the two 4yo’s next time they meet again on similar terms.
Head Honcho did all the donkey work and looked a possible winner inside the 250m – he finished under a length off the winner to maintain his consistent form.
Ridden quietly from midfield due to his stamina doubts, Undercover Agent moved at the same moment as Rainbow Bridge but stayed on without threatening the top three to deny the gutsy 7yo Legal Eagle (2,25 lengths) for fourth.
Legal Eagle, ridden differently today, was not disgraced and he could yet be a force in the Highveld Season.
SA Horse Of The Year Oh Susanna (3,80 lengths) had every chance in bidding for her double but had nothing to come late in the race.
The 2017 Cape Guineas winner Tap O’Noth (7,50 lengths) was the last runner to collect a cheque – an expense covering R50 000 in tenth position.
The hardknocking forward galloper Milton never got into any leading position and finished tailed off.
Anton Marcus said it meant a lot to him but he knew it meant even more for the family of the late Chris Gerber.
“I had my reservations about the trip but he felt so good. Jumping off Legal Eagle was one of the hardest decisions I have made. I got lucky with Rainbow Bridge,” he added modestly.
Eric Sands, who was winning his first Met after 36 years in the training game, said there were so many people to thank.
“I am so pleased for everybody. The patience has paid off with this horse. He will have a break now,” he added.
Representing the late Chris Gerber, Colin Gordon thanked breeders Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein.
“Chris (Gerber) loved buying their horses. Anton is such a professional. And Eric and Helen and their whole team have done a great job with Rainbow Bridge.”
A R300 000 National Yearling Sale buy, Rainbow Bridge was bred by Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein and is a 4yo gelded son of Ideal World (Kingmambo) – whose second Met winner he was after Smart Call in 2016.
The winner is out of the versatile seven-time winner Halfway To Heaven (Jet Master), whose successes included the 2013 Gr3 Prix Du Cap. There is a very sentimental connection to this family for Eric Sands, who trained the dam for Gavin Walker until she was sold to Mauritzfontein, in whose silks she raced for Mike de Kock until the end of her career.
Rainbow Bridge has won 6 races with 2 places from 8 starts for stakes of R3 632 500.
A great day – superb weather – a large crowd – and a fairytale for the Gerber and Sands families.
Gr1 Sun Met with G.H MUMM (SAf-Gr1)
Kenilworth, South Africa, January 26, R5 million, 2000m, turf, good, 2.02.96
1 – RAINBOW BRIDGE (SAF), 59.5, b g 4, Ideal World (USA) – Halfway To Heaven (SAF) by Jet Master (SAF). Owner Late Mr M C Gerber; Breeder Wilgerbosdrift & Mauritzfontein; trainer AE Sands; jockey A Marcus
2 – Do It Again (SAF), 59.5, b g 4, Twice Over (GB) – Sweet Virginia (SAF) by Casey Tibbs (IRE)
3 – Head Honcho (SAF), 60.0, b g 5, Querari (GER) – School Captain (SAF) by Captain Al (SAF)
Margins: 0.75, 0.20, 1.25