In a comeback reminiscent of Flying Finn Lasse Viren, who fell in a 1972 Olympic final, only to get up to earn gold and set a world record, the Elusive Fort gelding Out Of Your League emerged from what appeared a ‘dead and buried’ position 300m from home to win the R425 000 Gr1 SA Derby at a ghostly Turffontein on Saturday.
Quoted at 45-1, and much less fancied that his well-performed stablemate Youcanthurrylove, Out Out Of Your League emulated his subsequent Equus Champion triple Gr1 winning sire Elusive Fort (Fort Wood), by winning the SA Derby.
But it was a nerve-wracking moment for Fabian Habib, who had to sweat through a brief objection by second-placed rider Gavin Lerena on the grounds of interference suffered in the latter stages, to gain his first Gr1 victory.
There was clearly an element of bumping late in the race, with a green Out Of Your League pricking his ears and running onto Shango at about the 250m – and then again in the final strides.
Neither of winning rider Raymond Danielson or Gavin Lerena on Shango, changed their whip hands into a more defensive position.
And the Stipes didn’t spend too much time debating it – the assertive overruled call being delivered in a matter of minutes. Hewitson’s deposit was refunded.
It was a breathtaking win by the 90-rated gelding, who made all the running and looked well and truly beaten halfway down the straight.
With SA Classic winner Got The Greenlight floating through effortlessly from the rear, and the hard-ridden Western Fort (also a son of Elusive Fort) flying up the outside rail, Out Of Your League was going backwards.
That is until Danielson felt something alive in the reserve tank and decided he had a chance. The pair came again to hold Shango (93-20) to a half length in a time of 156,53 secs. Dramatic stuff!
The favourite Got The Greenlight looked a winner inside the distance and was beaten 0,70 lengths into third, with Western Fort out in the wilderness, but running a cracker in fourth. The rest didn’t matter.
It would be a slight exaggeration to say this race dishes up regular longshots – the last four winners going off at a diverse value range of 1-6, 7-2, 55-1 and 9-1
A proven sire, whose current flagbearers include the likes of Aquanaut Handicap vixen Chitengo and millionaire Elusive Trader, Elusive Fort has five yearlings on the 2020 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale, including a full-brother (Lot 48) to dual Gr3 winner Freedom Charter and Sophomore Sprint winner Ernie, a three-parts sister (Lot 371) to Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas runner up Safe Harbour, and a half-sister (Lot 401) to four stakes winners including graded stakes winners Priceless Jewel and Royal Badge.
The winner completed a red-letter day for the champion breeders after Summer Pudding and Hawwaam, as he was bred by longstanding Wilgerbosdrift Manager Wynand Nel out of the Windrush mare, Lil’ Bacio, who never raced.
The mare was originally purchased from Dr Marianne Thomson and produced the multiple winner, Paybackthemoney. She has a Soft Falling Rain colt on the National 2yo Sale.
Out Of Your League was purchased for R130 000 at the National 2yo Sale. He has won 3 from 9 for 3 places and stakes of R422 175.
Despite the absence of spectators, it was a great day’s racing.