Chesalon put up what – on paper at least – can probably rate as his career best effort when he landed the Calulo Service Premier Trophy over 1800m on the Kenilworth summer course on Saturday. The four-year-old looked to have quite a lot to do at the weights in this conditions race, and while he may have been helped in part by the way the race mapped out he emerged a thoroughly worthy winner, writes MATTHEW LIPS.
Chesalon had probably found 1600m too short when beaten almost five lengths in the Gr2 Green Point Stakes three weeks earlier and his supporters for the Premier Trophy, going off as the 5/1 third favourite in a field of 13 behind Lion In Winter (2/1) and Run For It (28/10). Lion In Winter looked to have a particularly good chance at the weights, having beaten Run For It by a neck on 5kgs worse terms over 1800m on the Kenilworth winter course in November, but he failed to deliver the same sort of performance here.
With no obvious frontrunner in the line-up it was always on the card that there would be a modest pace at best early on, and that proved to be the case. It was Master Barry who took them along at a leisurely tempo ahead of Lake Arthur and Cask, with Chesalon nicely positioned in fourth on the fence after jumping from the 1 draw. The eventual winner’s stable companion English Garden was next in line as Lion In Winter raced some seven lengths off the leader, with Run For It further behind as Super Storm – another stable companion of Chesalon’s – at the rear.
Lake Arthur was the first to challenged a weakening Master Barry in the straight, but his effort was also coming to and end half way down the run-in, where Chesalon quickly came forward to lead. Cask was the nearest to him as English Garden folded suddenly, while Lion In Winter looked to be caught rather flatfooted in the dash for home. Run For It started to make good ground wider out, but he’d left himself with too much to do in the circumstances and from more than 100m out the race concerned only Chesalon and Cask. The latter had won the corresponding race twelve months earlier and gave it his all in a bid to lift the prize again, but Chesalon was always holding him at bay and was punched out by Bernard Fayd’Herbe to win by three-quarters of a length. The winning rider was wasting no time in making his presence felt after returning from the just-concluded Mauritius racing season.
Cask met Chesalon on 1.5 kgs worse terms than would have applied in a handicap and clearly has something of a love affair with the Premier Trophy. He finished 1.25 lengths in front of third placed Run For It, who was certainly not disgraced but who continues to frustrate his followers after going for more than a year now without winning a race. Lion In Winter could only stay on for a never dangerous fourth, another three-quarters of a length behind Run For It. English Garden was virtually pulled up after suffering a nosebleed and trailed in 20 lengths behind the winner. Last season’s Gr1 SA Classic winner has long had the reputation of being a bleeder and it all went pear-shaped on Saturday. He will be suspended as a result, and that’s the end of English Garden’s Cape summer campaign.
Winning trainer Mike Bass remarked afterwards that there is very little between Chesalon and English Garden in terms of ability, and it is now up to the former to be the stable’s principal hope in the Gr1 J & B Met on January 28th. Winners of the Premier Trophy don’t have a great record at all in the Met and one fancies that Chesalon is going to find life considerably harder against the likes of Igugu, but he at least no longer gets a penalty for winning this Gr2 after the Met conditions were amended a few years ago. He may to some extent have pinched first run on most of his key rivals on Saturday, and his jockey remarked afterwards that “from a long way out I always knew I had them cold.” It was an enterprising and well-judged ride from Fayd’Herbe, and the form of the Premier Trophy could turn out to be slightly suspect, but Chesalon must at least have a reasonable chance of earning a minor prize come the end of next month.
Chesalon is a gelded son of Fort Wood (as is the year-older runner-up Cask). He is the second foal and second winner of Goldmark mare Sarabande, who won six races between 1600/2000m and who achieved her biggest success when winning the Gr1 Majorca Stakes on J & B Met day in 2004. Bred at Avontuur Stud and bought for R250 000 from the 2009 National Yearling Sale, Chesalon has won five times from 12 starts for earnings of R500 790. He is still relatively unexposed, and whatever his fate in the J & B Met he looks capable of winning again in decent company.
Premiers Trophy (SAf-G2) (12/10)
Kenilworth, South Africa, December 10, R300.000, 1800m, turf, good, 1.51.57 (CR 1.48.98).
1 – CHESALON (SAF), 58.0, b g 4, Fort Wood (USA) – Sarabande (SAF) by Goldmark (SAF). Owner P Bamford, P Sukdeo and D J Visagie; breeder Avontuur Farm (SAF); trainer M W Bass; jockey B Fayd’herbe (R198.913)
2 – Cask (SAF), 59.5, b g 5, Fort Wood – Brandy Butter (AUS) by Danehill
3 – Run For It (SAF), 57.5, b c 4, Dynasty (SAF) – Running Rhythm (SAF) by Jallad
Margins: ¾, ½, ¾
Also ran: Lion In Winter (SAF) 59.5, Super Storm (SAF) 58.5, Caymen Island (SAF) 57.5, Paddy O’Reilly (SAF) 57.5, League Of Honour (AUS) 57.5, Lake Arthur (SAF) 57.0, Master Barry (SAF) 57.0, Hawk’s Eye (GB) 58.5, English Garden (SAF) 60.0, Saluki (GB) 57.5