August Rush – Gr1 Mercury Sprint

Rush Hour

August Rush - Gr1 success for a son of Var

August Rush has been on the fringes of a big win all season and his moment in the limelight arrived at Clairwood last Saturday when he captured the Mercury Sprint over 1200m.  The four-year-old had finished less than a length second behind Shea Shea in the Gr 1 Golden Horse Sprint at Scottsville in May and had his fair share of backers to win a Mercury Sprint from which all of Shea Shea, Val De Ra, and What A Winter were notable absentees, writes MATTHEW LIPS.

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August Rush started as an 11/2 chance in a field of 13 for this WFA contest.  The three-year-olds Splash Gold and Magico were the highest merit rated runners in the race at 113 and 112 respectively, and went off as the 7/2 joint favourites.  Exclaim’n’Exclude was unbeaten from four Clairwood appearances – three over 1200m – and was well supported from an opening call of 6/1 to start as a 4/1 chance, with sole filly Covenant starting at 11/2.

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Gaultier hopped out smartly from the 1 draw and quickly set about making the running at a decent tempo from Never Forever and August Rush, with Magico perfectly placed within striking distance of the lead.  Captain’s Secret was handy towards the outside rail as Splash Gold was held up as always a few lengths off the action.  Exclaim’n’Exclude was also within some three or four lengths of Gaultier as the latter continued to show the way.  Magico looked to be travelling well coming inside the last 400m, but it wasn’t long before he came under pressure and found disappointingly little when asked for an effort.  Splash Gold also failed to fire when called upon, but Covenant was starting to make ground towards the inside and Copper Parade was beginning a strong run from well off the early pace.

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August Rush and Captain’s Secret came through to dispute matters as Gaultier faded inside the last 200m, but the former soon had the upper hand.  Running on strongly under Bernard Fayd’herbe, August Rush held off the running-on Copper Parade by a length, with Captain’s Secret a neck further away in third and a head in front of fourth-placed Covenant.  Exclaim’n’Exclude failed to quicken and was beaten 2.75 lengths into seventh place, while Splash Gold and Magico proved the most disappointing of all and occupied the last two places in a race where they were weighted to finish first and second.  Races aren’t run on paper, but this was a wholly unexpected result from the joint market leaders, who both came here on the back of an impressive last win.

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One has to say that the Clairwood course looked in a far from ideal condition after four millimetres of rain in the 24 hours before the Mercury meeting, with considerable kickback, and while it was the same for everybody not every horse necessarily enjoyed it.  The state of KZN’s racecourses has been the subject of some lively debate on various blogs recently, with at least one of them (not the much maligned Scottsville) being compared to something from “the arse end of Bolivia”.   Clairwood is arguably in the worst condition of all three, and while it is obvious enough that winter is not prime grass growing season (even in balmy Durban) we have seen our tracks in better shape than this in winters past.  Whether the state of the course had anything to do with the almost implausible result of the joint favourites occupying the last two places in a WFA event is impossible to say, but the KZN winter season is still the showcase of South African racing and it deserves better than this.

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August Rush was by no means the best in at the weights, but 1200m has long appeared to be his ideal distance and the four-year-old was a worthy winner of the season’s last major sprint.  Runner-up Copper Parade has an affinity for Clairwood, where he somewhat notoriously won a Gr 1 race via an objection as a two-year-old last season, and put up arguably his best effort since to finish second here.  Captain’s Secret was as game as ever in third, as was his fourth placed stable companion Covenant, who may not have been done any favours by a relatively low 3 draw.

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August Rush is trained by the much-travelled Neil Bruss, who at times has conditioned horses in Zimbabwe, Madagascar, the UK, and Saudi Arabia.  The gelding was bred by the trainer’s brother Robin Bruss, who still co-owns him.  August Rush is a four-year-old son of Var, a sire whose progeny are sometimes accused of not training on but who has proved that to be nonsense also through the exploits this season of his four-year-old daughter Val De Ra.  August Rush is the third foal of Zimbabwe-bred Huntingdale mare Bushgirl, who never raced but who is a daughter of champion racemare Devon Air.  August Rush has won five of his 18 starts, earnings stakes of R728 805.

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