Anton Marcus took the R1 250 000 Wilgerbosdrift Gr1 SA Fillies Classic by the scruff of the neck at Turffontein on Saturday and went all the way on the 2017/18 Equus Champion 2yo Return Flight to deny Mike de Kock a hat-trick in the prestigious classic.
Marcus, a master of judging pace, played down his achievement, giving the filly all the credit and confirming that she was running on ‘pure heart’ in the final 150m.
With Warren Kennedy looking to capture the second leg of the SA Triple Tiara on Gauteng Fillies Guineas winner and favourite Nafaayes, the unknown of the extra 200m was always a question mark against a few of the runners.
Kennedy did nothing wrong as he had Nafaayes relaxed in fourth and five lengths off as Marcus took Return Flight out to lead and he controlled things from there all the way around.
With Nafaayes under a left handed whip and appearing to gain, Return Flight hung out under pressure which allowed Nafaayes to draw level at the 150m marker.
But it wasn’t a prize Marcus was giving up too lightly, and he put his head down and gathered his mount in that familiar style. Return Flight never looked like getting beaten again and she rallied and held Nafaayes by 0,80 lengths in a time of 112.09 secs.
A daughter of past SA Triple Tiara winner Cherry On The Top, Blossom charged home from way back to grab third and signal her SA Oaks prospects.
Three Troikas winner Storm Destiny was also gaining late for fourth, and is another who looks to be competitive in the Oaks.
Return Flight, a daughter of last season’s Champion freshman sire Pomodoro (Jet Master) won the Gr1 Thekwini Stakes on Super Saturday last term.
Reiterating again that he is a difficult guy to work for, Sean Tarry, who enjoyed a feature double, thanked his team for their efforts
“She almost lost her way and had issues. And as we always felt she would be a Triple Tiara contender, we were disappointed we couldn’t make the Guineas.”
Jockey Anton Marcus, who was also aboard Return Flight at her 2yo Gr1 success, said that the programming skip of the Gauteng Fillies Guineas may have been a ‘blessing in disguise in hindsight.’
Owner Chris van Niekerk, who raced Return Flight’s Vodacom Durban July winning sire Pomodoro, said he was pleased for the victorious sire.
A R20 000 CTS 2017 March Yearling Sale buy by Van Niekerk’s Rainbow Beach Trading, Return Flight was bred by Mike Sharkey and is out of the four-time winner Heading Home (Special Preview).
She has won two Gr1’s in her 4 wins with 4 places from 9 starts, and took her career earnings to R1 429 725.
This was an energy sapping effort and it remains to be seen whether Return Flight turns up for the SA Oaks.
Gr1 SA Fillies Classic (SAf-Gr1)
Turffontein, South Africa, March 2, R1.25 million, 1800m, turf, good, 1.52.09
1 – RETURN FLIGHT (SAF), 60.0, b f 3, Pomodoro (SAF) – Heading Home (SAF) by Special Preview (SAF). Owner Mr C J H Van Niekerk; Breeder M Sharkey; trainer SG Tarry; jockey A Marcus
2 – Nafaayes (AUS), 60.0, b f 3, Exceed And Excel (AUS) – Decelerator (USA) by Dehere (USA)
3 – Blossom (SAF), 60.0, b f 3, Silvano (GER) – Cherry On The Top (SAF) by Tiger Ridge (USA)
Margins: 0.80, 0.20, 0.50