With the end of the racing season looming large, it’s time to reflect on the opening salvos of the first season sires.
Judging by the results of the juvenile features at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth last weekend, the class of 2023 has been arguably the most promising bunch we have seen in recent years.
Sadly, it is War Front’s short-lived son Lancaster Bomber who currently holds an unassailable lead in the race to the freshman sires title, underlining the fact that his premature death at the tender age of seven has been a cruel blow, not just to Drakenstein Stud, but to the South African breeding industry as a whole.
A flurry of recent winners brought his tally to 19, and includes his second stakes winner Beach Bomb, who ran her rivals ragged in the Listed World Sports Betting Irridescence Stakes.
Yet another homebred triumph for Drakenstein Stud, this impeccably-bred filly is the fourth stakes performer from the first five foals out of champion racemare Beach Beauty.
By the way, Lancaster Bomber’s first stakes winner is also a filly, the Listed Summer Juvenile Stakes winner Rascova, who most recently chased home unbeaten Mrs Geriatrix in the Gr2 Golden Slipper on Durban July day.
She returns to Hollywoodbets Greyville this weekend for the Gr1 Douglas Whyte Stakes (formerly Thekwini Stakes) and in the absence of Sean Tarry’s star filly, is sure to make her presence felt under Lyle Hewitson.
Another black-type daughter is the Lammerskraal-bred Siddeley, who has reached the frame in both the East Cape Nursery and Perfect Promise Sprint.
Currently heading Lancaster Bomber’s winning colts is Guy Gibson. This half-brother to Gr1 Cape Guineas winner Kilindini ran third behind undefeated Lucky Lad in the Gr1 Gold Medallion and most recently, filled the same spot in the Gr2 Durban Golden Horseshoe.
One to keep an eye on is the promising Red Bomber. A fluent winner on debut, the Johan Janse van Vuuren-trained colt was all at sea in the Gold Medallion, but quickly made amends next time out over 1450m.
Given that Lancaster Bomber has a number of runners in action this week, there is an outside chance that Captain Al’s record of 22 first-crop juvenile winners is in danger of being equalled.
Hollywoodbets Kenilworth’s other juvenile feature, the Gr3 Langerman, was dominated by Fire Away, who sired both the winner My Golly Molly and third-placed Zil Moris.
Also by War Front, the Wilgerbosdrift-based bay is a grandson of the champion racemare and equally successful broodmare Personal Ensign, and lived up to his fine bloodlines with Gr3 victories on both dirt and turf before joining Mike de Kock in Dubai.
“He ran just once for me but pulled up with a foot problem,” the maestro trainer explained.
“He showed me he was a proper racehorse. Sadly, there wasn’t enough time to get him right, as I felt he would have won for me, but with a stud career waiting in South Africa, the syndicate decided it was time to pull the plug.That he raced until seven goes to show his durability. That’s a big plus, especially for an American-raced horse. His youngsters all want ground and look like they will train on to bigger and better things.”
Whilst My Golly Molly is his sire’s first Graded stakes winner, Fire Away’s initial black type winner was the Allan Greeff-trained Luna Halo, who has carried all before her in Gqeberha. Beaten just once in five starts to date, this hugely-talented filly recently completed a fine stakes hat-trick in the Listed Lady’s Slipper. Prior to that, she scored a fluent victory in the Listed East Cape Fillies Nursery over abovementioned Siddeley and prevailed in an all-filly finish to the Listed Dahlia Plate.
Egyptian Mau, who runs at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Sunday, looks another fine prospect. Trained by Lucky Houdalakis, she took on the boys in the Gr1 Gold Medallion straight off a fluent debut win and was not disgraced when fourth behind star colt Lucky Lad.
On Hollywoodbets Durban July day, she ran third behind Mrs Geriatrix and Rascova in the Golden Slipper.
Stakes-placed son Fire ‘N Flames was his sire’s very first winner. Already gelded, he is clearly a tough customer and has maintained his form admirably well, despite having faced the starter ten times for two wins and six places, amongst which a second in the Listed Storm Bird Stakes.
Whilst classic horses have always been the meat and drink of Mauritzfontein Stud, the likes of Free Ride, Fort Wood, Strike Smartly and Ideal World, bear testament of that, the late Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer’s grandaughter Jessica Slack is moving towards injecting more speed and precocity into the famed stud.
In 2019, the stallion roster was boosted by a Gr1 winning juvenile in the shape of Japanese bred Danon Platina. A grey son of Japanese powerhouse Deep Impact, he scored a career-defining victory at two in the Gr1 Asahi Hai Futurity on turf and was named the champion juvenile of 2014.
Although Danon Platina’s stallion career took some time to gain momentum, an initial trickle of winners has become a steady stream and with 17 winners to his credit, he is snapping at the heels of Lancaster Bomber.
Mike de Kock, who trains his dual winning daughters White Pearl and Platina Princess, remarked:
“I’m really impressed and like what I see. That they have so much speed is encouraging. We never expected to see such precocity in his juveniles, considering that he scored his Gr1 win over a mile as a back-end juvenile. It seems the further they go, the better they get and at this stage, it all looks good for their classic season.”
Although stakes success has thus far proved elusive, that could change this weekend. Platina Princess takes her chances in the Gr1 Douglas Whyte Stakes, as does Mike Miller-trained Lady Lacewing.
In the Gr2 WSB Debutante Stakes, Duncan Howells saddles Oriental Bouquet, while sons Romance In Rome and Kyomai have thrown their hats into the ring for the Gr1 Champion Stakes.
Lancaster Bomber and Fire Away will also be aiming for a first crop Gr1 winner in the Douglas Whyte, the former with Rascova and the latter with Egyptian Mau. In the World Pool Moment Of The Day Champion Stakes, Fire Away will rely on Peter Muscutt-trained Down By The River, a wide-margin maiden winner of his last start.
Granted, it’s early days yet. However, from what we have witnessed thus far, the first crops of all three horses have done enough to suggest that they will be a force to reckon with.
We can surely look forward to more fireworks next season.