Sceptre Start Blues

The highs and lows of racing

Drama at the start left something of a hollow ring to the outcome of the prestigious R300 000 Cartier Gr2 Sceptre Stakes on the opening day of the 2022 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate Festival at Kenilworth on Friday.

Full marks to the Cape Racing on-course television crew for providing insights into something usually hidden from the viewing public.

Mercury rising – post race drama as Jono Snaith (right) makes a point to John Freeman, Justin Snaith and Etienne Braun (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Tellytrack live streaming viewers were treated to the unfortunate unfolding drama in the aftermath of a start that should have been flagged, and which included counts of jockeys allegedly being ignored by the starter.

But with the advantage of the standalone meeting we saw the uncensored emotional reaction of riders and owners, coupled with the informed observations of veteran racecaller Rouvaun Smit and MC Neil Andrews in the studio.

The drama and some outspoken comment, usually reserved for private exchanges, made racing feel like a grown-up sport in a rare moment of vulnerability.

Spare a thought for the Mercury Rising connections after the Snaith filly’s 14 gate clearly opened early. Jockey Craig Zackey admitted his mount got a flyer and the gun-to-tape victory celebrations were short-lived, as she was declared a non-runner.

Part owner John Freeman was sportingly philosophical and called it a ‘racing incident’.

“There must be a technical issue with the starting gate. It’s not a nice way to win or lose. But congratulations to the winner. These things happen in racing. We move on,” the veteran bloodstock man told the Sporting Post.

The favourite Sound Of Warning ‘threw a wobbly’ in her 1 gate, in the words of Jockey Richard Fourie. In his efforts to calm her down, the handler impeded her and she didn’t jump.

Clearly, with the power of hindsight, the Starter should have called a false start.

But, to be fair, from his rostrum position on the inside, his eye may not have seen the handler impede the Tarry filly in stall-gate 1. It is interesting to note that Favorita in stall gate 2 didn’t jump either. She was under starters orders. That may have added to the deception in the starter’s mind.

Eventual winner Gimme Dat (gold cap, Grant van Niekerk) moves up strongly down the inside. Unlucky 13 Mercury Rising (green cap) was disqualified (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

The eventual winner in the boardroom was the Justin Snaith-trained 3yo Gimme Dat, the 2021 Kenilworth Fillies Nursery winner, who races in the silks of UK-based Bjorn Nielsen.

Bred by Lammerskraal, the upgraded winner – like the original ‘winner’ – is by SA Champion sire Gimmethegreenlight (More Than Ready) out of the twice winning Western Winter mare, Mizzen  Mast.

Gimme Dat is a R450 000 Cape Premier Yearling Sale purchase and is now a winner of 3 races with 1  place from her 6 starts. Gimme Dat has earned R315 200 in  stakes.

The adjusted tote favourite, the consistent Capitana was placed second, ahead of Major Attraction and Santa Maria. So Snaith demoted, and then the SA Champion grabs 1-3 in the adjusted result.

While Cape Racing seldom have large fields to accommodate, it is hoped that the technical issues around the defective stall gate will be resolved. The gates are usually tested in advance of the race.

Many callers to the Sporting Post offices questioned why the race wasn’t declared null and void. Richard Fourie also said afterwards that we want the best horse to win it for the stud book and that he was sure that many of the connections would rather have come back in three weeks to rerun it. But he accepted that it was not always as simple as it sounded.

NHA CEO Vee Moodley explained that there were two separate incidents to consider and action had been taken on both. He said that beyond the two horses declared non-runners, the rest ran on merit and it would not have been fair to the balance of those that competed, to have voided the race.

The highs and lows of racing!


1ST 15 GIMME DAT SJ Snaith G van Niekerk 7/1
2ND 2 CAPITANA B Crawford A Marcus 1.25 1.25 5/1
3RD 7 MAJOR ATTRACTION SJ Snaith C Orffer 1.50 2.75 20/1
4TH 12 SANTA MARIA C Bass-Robinson K de Melo 0.50 3.25 5/1
5TH 6 PHIL’S DANCER SJ Sanith B Fayd’Herbe 2.25 5.50 20/1
TIME OF RACE: 1 min 11 sec


2 CAPITANA B Crawford A Marcus 1.25 5/1


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