The R1 million World Sports Betting Gauteng Summer Cup landscape changed complexion in just under two minutes at Turffontein on Saturday.
Trainer St John Gray strengthened his big race claims and saddled his home-bred Christopher Robin for a fluent maiden graded stakes success in the R125 000 Gr3 Victory Moon Stakes.
The last chance saloon for the Gauteng flagship handicap on 28 November, the Victory Moon Stakes provided a minor upset as the 4yo son of Damage Is Done, who was not in the top twenty of the final race log published earlier this week, leapfrogged his way into contention with an emphatic strike under a balanced left-handed ride from the in-form S’manga ‘Bling’ Khumalo.
Tracking the leaders Orpheus, Snow Palace and Seven Patriots all the way around, Christopher Robin (8-1) maintained his smooth approach into his date with Gr1 destiny later this month, when he moved up smartly at the 300m and easily withstood the challenge of the more fancied Astrix (15-4) to win readily by 2,50 lengths in a time of 112,35 secs.
Sean Tarry would have been happier with his slightly frustrating smart filly Victoria Paige (15-4), who stayed on well enough late into third a further 1,25 lengths back. She was at 19th on the log.
The winner’s stablemate Dance Class (5-1) got the better of a brief duel with the Corne Spies-trained Imperial Ruby (25-1)to secure fourth. The Spies stayer was at 18th on the log before Saturday.
The top ten are all Summer Cup hopefuls, with the pacesetting Orpheus fading badly and surely an unlikely runner on 28 November after being reported not striding out left front.
In a sad week for SA racing, St John Gray dedicated the victory to the honour of the memory of two late stalwarts of the local racing scene in Romeo Francis and Peter White.
The veteran owner-trainer-breeder labelled the winner ‘the Iron Horse’ and conceded that S’manga Khumalo and his agent Monty Mariemuthoo have some decisions to make `as regards their Summer Cup options of going with Alec Laird’s smart ex-Glen Kotzen charge Pack Leader, or to stick with Christopher Robin.
St John Gray last won the Summer in 2011 with champion mare Dancewithhedevil. He also saddled the 2018 runner-up Dawn Assault.
A winner of 6 races with 11 places from 26 starts for stakes of R497 825, Christopher Robin is a son of the inactive Rakeen stallion Damage Is Done, who won 4 races from 1600-2000m, before being injured.
The female line has produced champions Politician, Al Nitak and The Sheik but Damage Is Done got very limited opportunities at stud.
Christopher Robin is out of the five-time winning Malhub mare, Onehundredacrewood – who only won up to 1200m.
WSB Gauteng Summer Cup final entries close at 11h00 on, with declarations 24 hours later.
We will know the composition of the final field on Tuesday.