Looking at the three year old picture in isolation may serve little purpose, but the Cape Guineas and Derby masterpiece benefitted from a few more strokes of the brush and a splash of colour after the Kenilworth meeting on 27 November.
Every owner would like to believe that their youngster has shown Classic aspirations. But few make the cut and, as is the norm, there were both smiles and frowns as the post-mortems flowed and the ice clinked on the well-worn bar counters, in a grandstand that has seen great horses and pages of turf history written over the years.
Joey Ramsden is one man who would have settled down on Monday to book some large lunch-tables for the big-race days that lie ahead. The gregarious Brit has had a huge summer so far and continued his great run when sending out the brilliant Var colt Variety Club to win the R300 000 Gr2 Selangor Cup. This was Ramsden’s third Group winner on consecutive weekends in the month of November – which has no doubt surpassed his birthday month of August, as his favourite time of the year. For those with short memories, he grabbed the Merchants with the unfancied grey Shades Of Indigo and then sent out the injury plagued Bravura to grab the Green Point Stakes the previous Saturday. That’s a November to remember in any trainer’s dreams!
A legend of generosity to a fault when it comes to dinner and drinks, Ramsden was full of praise for Hassen Adams’ Gimmethegreenlight, who gave Variety Club a minor scare in the final stages of the Selangor Cup. The Australian bred colt had looked a million dollars in the preliminaries, and ran accordingly. While Potala Palace did the form of his Premiers Challenge third place at end July no favours with a shocker in the Dingaans just 24 hours earlier, there is every reason to believe that the Snaith charge will recapture his juvenile form that saw his win his first four starts.
But back to Variety Club. The Matchem and Langerman winner is a ‘really good horse’ in the words of his trainer, and his record shows just that. A winner of five of his eight starts and over R500 000 in stakes, the Beaumont Stud product just seems to fly an inch below the radar and deliver when required. Bred on speed lines, he stayed every inch at his first attempt at a mile, and now looks a big Guineas contender, and one hopes that he soon sheds his serious sprinter- miler label. Avontuur General Manager Pippa Mickleburgh must be over the moon that her beloved stallion Var has now produced a serious Classic type colt too. So a happy-happy story all round, and now we wait to see who Anton Marcus opts to ride in the Guineas.
Dean Kannemeyer produced both the third and fourth placed finishers in the Selangor Cup. His previously unbeaten Fastnet Rock colt Liancourt Rock stayed on well to finish just 3,3 lengths off Variety Club, while Depardieu ran his usual game race a further 3 lengths away in fourth. They both warrant a tilt at the Guineas. And the happiest thought for Kannemeyer is that he now has a line on his ‘not-so-secret weapon’, Divine Jet. Another unbeaten and as yet untested colt.
Excuses and ailments aside, it is back to the drawing board for the rest of the Selangor field – their trainers will have to rethink their programmes.
In a race labelled as a mini Derby trial, Dean Kannemeyer’s Taipan scored a narrow victory in the Mr 90 Handicap over 1800m. Starting well into the red, the son of Dynasty scored a nail-biting and narrow win over the gallant six year old Caymen Island, who had the kitchen sink thrown at him by Brandon Morgenrood. Whether Felix Coetzee hit the front too early or rode the favourite with an unfounded level of confidence, will only be borne out in time to come. He was receiving all of eleven kilograms from the four-time winner and Dean Kannemeyer was adamant afterwards that it was a good run from a three year old over a distance short of his best. Many thought that the older horse had in fact gotten up to win, but a high-riding Kannemeyer brushed aside Tellytrack presenter Neil Pretorius’ sniping quip that he would like to have a look at the photograph, by saying that he was ‘just happy to be standing in the number one box.’
Often touted as a prospective Derby candidate, Taipan cost R350 000 as a two year old and has now won three of his five starts for gross stake earnings of R130 000. He is handsome strapping horse who will probably only come into his own during the KZN Champions Season, and is yet another promising three year old in what looks a vintage year in the Cape. He was bred by Milkwood Stud and is out of the Hermitage mare Fairy Footprints, who has had an average stud career to date. Owned by Marsh Shirtliff, Bryn Ressell and Warren Laird, he could be viewed as the dark horse when we reflect back in ten months time.
One three year old who was less fortunate than Taipan, was Justin Snaith’s Changingoftheguard, who went out a warm order to win the MR90 Handicap over a mile. A recent feature winner when downing the best of the Eastern Cape youngsters in the Racing Association Stakes at Fairview in October, the son of Go Deputy was confidently ridden from the front by Richard Fourie. With 200m to run the tactic appeared to have worked but Felix Coetzee got the four year old Polar Bound to run on late under 61,5kgs and win going away. Changingoftheguard stayed on really well and warrants another chance. He has won two from four starts and looks a Derby prospect.
Eric Sands’ Final Button is a good looking son of Tiger Ridge who has flattered to deceive on occasion with fingers being burnt by his supporters in the past. He came out full of enthusiasm in the MR77 Handicap over 1600m and was given a great ride by Anton Marcus. Settled in midfield by the champion jockey, he swept out wide late to win a good race and receive a few notable accolades from the top jockey in the post-race interview. This was his second win from eight starts and he is Listed placed, so has some fair ability. A R300 000 National Sale graduate, he was not given the most judicious of rides at his last start(as confirmed by comments made by Eric Sands in the post-race interview) when allowed to stride freely in a small field by MJ Byleveld.
The disappointment of this race was the highly vaunted Bass colt Laurie’s Gold, who appeared to have every chance before plodding one-paced late in the race. He was slightly hampered in the running, but it is difficult to have seen him getting closer than the xxlengths to the impressive Final Button.
So some really nice youngsters – and some bitter pills and home truths for the other less capable sorts.