Dethroned – Gr2 Gold Circle Derby

Il Saggiatore - Controversial winner

The Gold Circle Derby at Clairwood on Sunday produced a controversial finish when Sage Throne crossed the line first, only to lose the race in the boardroom and be placed second after an objection. Coming at the end of a race which was run at a very moderate early pace, this was all things considered a less than satisfactory affair and it may well be one of those races that is best consigned to a musty history tome as soon as possible, and left there, writes MATTHEW LIPS.

Il Saggiatore was well supported from an ante-post price of 2/1 to start as the 11/10 favourite for this 2400m contest. He had perhaps raced closer to the pace than he likes when fading to finish ninth in the Daily News 2000 earlier in June, but his fast finishing second in the Gr1 Cape Derby in January appeared to set the standard even though he came here rated one pound below Cape Derby fourth Mystic Moon by the handicappers. Mystic Moon has no shortage of backers and went off as the 28/10 second favourite from an opening call of 9/2, with Roman Wall the 11/2 third choice of punters in a field of nine.
A King Is Born was the first to show at a sedate tempo, showing the way just ahead of Solera and Ice Axe, with Roman Wall and Abington next in line as Il Saggiatore and Mystic Moon were both held up off the pace. Roman Wall made progress down the back straight and eventually worked his way to the front, leading them into the far turn and into the straight. Ice Axe was amongst the first to make his move in the stretch, but Il Saggiatore was starting to make smooth headway wider out, with Sage Throne right on his case. Il Saggiatore was in front coming to the last 200m, but Sage Throne was just about alongside and the two knuckled down for a fight.
Unfortunately, the fight became a tad too physical. Sage Throne shifted outwards twice – on the second occasion just strides short of the line – before drawing clear in the closing stages to beat Il Saggiatore by almost one length. It didn’t take long for a member of the Stipendiary board to take exception to Sage Throne’s manner of victory and an objection was promptly lodged. Many pundits had their doubts that it would be upheld and at least one experienced racing personality went as far as calling the objection “frivolous”, but the Board clearly took a different view and upheld the protest, handing the win to Il Saggiatore and demoting Sage Throne to second.
For the objection to succeed it had to be established that Il Saggiatore would have won, but for the interference. This appears to require a considerable leap of faith as Sage Throne won quite comfortably in the end, but the killer may well have been the fact that he impeded the favourite twice. The Board may be sending a clear message to jockeys that there is only so much you can get away with, and hampering a rival twice is beyond that limit even if you beat him by the best part of a length. In that case there is no real complaint – but it is still easy to make a case for Sage Throne being the better horse on the day.
This in many ways was a repeat performance of the Gr3 East Cape Derby at Arlington in May, where the original and fairly comfortable winner was demoted after hampering the runner-up twice, so some degree of consistency (a quality much cherished by everyone in racing, and rightly so) may have been achieved. It’s hard to argue with that, but people will no doubt be debating the merits of this particular decision for some time to come. Il Saggiatore nevertheless goes into the annals of racing as yet another Classic winner for the rampant Galileo, whose progeny have been even more dominant than usual in major European three-year-old races this season and whose sons Treasure Beach and Seville occupied the first two places in the Irish Derby on the very same afternoon as Il Saggiatore – eventually – emerged as a Derby winner in his own right.
Ice Axe and Abington filled the minor places in Sunday’s race, with Mystic Moon probably being done no favours by the slow early pace and finishing a never dangerous fifth, 3.75 lengths behind first-home Sage Throne. Eventual winner Il Saggiatore is trained by Joey Ramsden for Markus and Ingrid Jooste, and it was the same team of trainer and owners who were awarded the East Cape Derby after a successful protest lodged on behalf of their horse, Vengence..
Two Derby seconds converted to two Derby wins via the boardroom in the space of a month-and-a-half may constitute some kind of record by Ramsden, but he’ll take them whichever way they come. A picture on the wall would be nice, but in the absence of such a thing there is always the rather more important matter of the first place stakes cheque. Not that the purse on offer for the Gold Circle Derby is anything like what it was in the race’s glory years, and in fact it is R50 000 less than what was offered for the one-Grade-lower East Cape Derby, but first prize is always a lot better than second.
Il Saggiatore is the seventh foal and sixth winner of Snippets mare Smidgin, who won five races in Australia and who was placed in numerous Listed events. Himself bred in Australia, Il Saggiatore was acquired for R750 000 at the 2009 National Yearling Sale. The gelding has won four times from nine starts, earning R470 060.

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Gold Circle Derby (SAf-G2) (6/26)
Clairwood, South Africa, June 26, R300.000, 2400m, turf, good, 2.34.15 (CR 2.27.30).
1 – IL SAGGIATORE (AUS), 58.0, b g 3, Galileo (IRE) – Smidgin (AUS) by Snippets (AUS). Owner Mrs I and Mr M J Jooste; breeder Glentree Downs Pastoral (AUS); trainer J Ramsden; jockey A Marcus (R198.913)
2 – Sage Throne (SAF), 58.0, b g 3, Dynasty (SAF) – Sage Blue (SAF) by Badger Land
3 – Ice Axe (SAF), 58.0, b g 3, Solskjaer (IRE) – Nordic Air (SAF) by Northern Guest
*Sage Throne finished first, but was placed second on objection
Margins: ¾, ½, 1¼
Also ran: Abington (SAF) 58.0, Mystic Moon (SAF) 58.0, Magnanimous (SAF) 58.0, A King Is Born (SAF) 58.0, Solera (SAF) 58.0, Roman Wall (SAF) 58.0

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