International owner Bjorn Nielsen has high hopes of winning the Investec Derby this year with the fancied English King.
He celebrated his maiden winner on South African soil when the What A Winter filly Trickster stormed to an easy victory at Hollywoodbets Scottsville on Wednesday.
A Justin Snaith-trained R700 000 Cape Premier Yearling Sale graduate, the Hemel ‘n Aarde Stud bred 2yo improved on a smart placing on her Cape debut to win at her second time of asking under champion jockey Anton Marcus. She may well be a Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship candidate.
Marcus joked that in the build-up he felt that he was engaged to ride the favourite in the Japan Cup.
“Justin (Snaith) kept reminding me that I was riding in the Stradivarius silks. He never left me alone,” he laughed.
The UK-based Cape Town-born Bjorn Nielsen grew up in the suburb of Pinelands and became intrigued by the photographs and stories of horse racing that dominated the headlines at the time.
It was the era of the mighty Syd ‘The Bear’ Laird and his white-faced colt Sea Cottage, would take South Africa by storm and capture the public imagination,
In a twist of fate, Bjorn Nielsen always had the black and yellow in mind for his racing silks and read an advertisement for a ‘rare set of racing silks for sale’ without stating what they were.
“I felt that if I could ever pick a set of racing colours my choice would be ‘black, yellow cap’. I called the advertiser up and asked him what the colours were and he said ‘black, yellow cap’. I nearly fell out of my chair. The guy had had them in his family for a hundred years. As you know, getting plain colours is impossible today because all the plain ones were registered in the early years of thoroughbred racing. So I’ve had them for about 30 years and they’ve been very lucky for me,” he told the Sporting Post last year.
And lucky sums it up!
The owner of a host of decent horses, his most recent newsmaker was the Sea The Stars son Stradivarius, who was champion stayer and dual winner of the Ascot Gold Cup.
The recent impressive success of his English King in the Betsafe Derby Trial Stakes saw him promoted to joint-favourite for the Investec Derby on 4 July.
He will bypass Royal Ascot next week.
Interestingly, English King was the quickest winner of the prep in 37 years, beating the time set by High-Rise in 1998, who went on to Derby glory, and trainer Ed Walker is hopeful his emerging stable star can develop into a leading player in the Epsom Classic.