Defender Goes On The Attack!

Wilgerbosdrift Gr1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes

Tony Peter’s star 3yo Main Defender and jockey Calvin Habib silenced the detractors as the gelding produced the peak performance of his short career at Turffontein on Classic Day when he stormed home to become only the second 3yo in a decade to win the R1,5 million Wilgerbosdrift Gr1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes.

Main Defender and Calvin Habib storm home to register a memorable Gr1 success (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

With a burst of storm weather delaying the afternoon, the buzz was back at Turffontein as a well-backed local hero stepped out to show his mettle.

After a forgettable prep run behind Melech three weeks ago, jockey Calvin Habib was given the thumbs-up and stamp of loyalty by the connections after a ride that drew some criticism.

“I want to thank everyone. It was a little bit messy last time. My only plan was to make it up to the connections,” added an elated Habib after he had ridden a well-judged race to get the only 3yo in the mile contest to produce a sustained late run to collar the courageous pacesetter Dave The King late in the race.

“After a messy start I had him further back than I wanted, but he gave it to me. I am so thankful to the connections for sticking by me and it’s my first Gr1 winner for Tony Peter,” added Habib, who had earlier partnered unbeaten 2yo’s Pistol Pete and Almond Sea to a Listed feature double for the high-riding yard, who have continued to churn out the winners through unprecedented challenges.

After SA Horse Of The Year Princess Calla (18-10) had ranged up dangerously at the 350m to challenge Dave The King (8-1), it was Main Defender (28-10) who parachuted in at the 200m and won going away to win by 2,75 lengths in a time of 98,47 secs.

Tony Peter and Calvin Habib celebrate a Classic Gr1 victory (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

Cousin Casey (16-1) has never really recaptured his gloss of old, but was hardly disgraced in fourth – albeit 5,25 lengths off the winner.

Registering his maiden Gr1 success – and a glorious first after 35 years of passion for his owners – Main Defender made it 7 wins (his first at a mile) with 2 places from 9 starts and now boasts stakes of R2 259 375.

A R140 000 buy from the 2022 BSA Cape Yearling Sale, the winner was bred by Jagessar Limited and is a son of Ridgemont’s Sandown Stud-based stallion Pathfork (Distorted Humor) out of the twice winning Judpot mare, Alessia.

It could be a big season yet for the Main Defender gang!

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