Champions Day – Trainer Comments

Geoff Woodruff discusses his runners

Geoff Woodruff

Geoff Woodruff


Geoff Woodruff is known as one of racing’s gentlemen and with good reason. Despite a healthy sized string and the obvious demands that that makes, Geoff is unfailingly friendly and accommodating and always finds time to field questions about his string and his star pupils in particular. The SP asked him to give us his thoughts on his Champions Day runners.

Race 1 MR96 Handicap (Master Sabina, Lockheed Jetstar, Rake’s Chestnut)

“It’s a great opener for the day’s card. Rake’s Chestnut and Louis The King both debuted over 1400m at the Vaal on 5 November – Louis was in race 9 and Rake’s Chestnut in race 10. Bearing in mind that it was the same day, course and distance – Rake’s time was 1.2 seconds faster and he won by 6 lengths. He’s very talented, but he was already starting to turn it up at his second start, so he’s been gelded now and this is his first run back from gelding. Rake’s Chestnut is a nice horse and we’ve always thought that. You’ll notice that I didn’t forget to nominate him in the July either!

Master Sabina

Master Sabina

Master Sabina has got a huge weight to carry. This is his first run back from gelding too and we’re looking at it as a come on run for the July. He finished a neck behind Yorker in the Summer Cup. He’s a good horse and we’re starting to see it again now.  I’m hoping for the best from both of them, but it’s obviously a tall order for a 1-time winner in top company.

Lockheed Jetstar is a horse that’s done very little wrong. I thought he ran a super race in the Horse Chestnut. He probably shouldn’t really have been there, but it was a race on the day that he could go for and we wanted to see what he could do. I thought he ran a very creditable 6th behind Yorker. He is in form and has a chance, although there are some really nice horses in that race, so it’s not easy, but it will be a nice pipe-opener for him.

Race 5  Gr1 Computaform Sprint (Miss October)

Top Form. The Var mare Miss October is enjoying her racing in Gauteng and tries the sand for the first time

Miss October “very very fast”

Miss October has also done very little wrong. Obviously we would be on the back foot with Via Africa – she’s a very smart filly – and I think it’s a very powerful field, but looking at the other Johannesburg runners, I think she can match them. It’s just a question of how Via Africa travels and how she acquits herself on the day, but we’re definitely not without a chance. Miss October is very very fast. In her last run in the Bauhinia Handicap, she was blocked off and couldn’t get a run. Gunter got to within 2 lengths of them without ever being able to press the button and she was giving weight to the whole field that day.

Race 6  Wilgerbosdrift Gr1 SA Oaks (Zephira, Touch The Sky)

“In the Oaks I don’t know who I lean towards. Zephira’s form is probably stronger. She gets the trip, we know that, so she would probably be the stable preference. Touch The Sky’s last win was very good. She’s a filly on the upgrade and shouldn’t have a problem with the trip, but she won a fairly weak Oaks Trial, whereas Zephira has been up against strong company over distances short of her best. I think 2000m should be her trip.”

Race 7 Gr1 President’s Champions Challenge (Yorker, Tellina, Killua Castle)

Robbie Fradd and Yorker in full cry at finish of the Gr1 Horse Chestnut Stakes (JC Photos)

Robbie Fradd and Yorker in full cry (JC Photos)

“In the President’s Champion’s Challenge, Woodruff fields a 3-pronged challenge with Yorker, Tellina and Killua Castle (who was recently announced as preparing for the Castle Tankard). “We’re not going for the Tankard anymore. We talked about it and decided it’s probably a bridge too far.

Killua and Tellina will doubtless be looking to take off from the back of the field. On face value off the Horse Chestnut result, one would expect Tellina should challenge Yorker strongly as this is over a better distance for both of them.  I’m really happy with Yorker, he put up a tremendous gallop this week, so I know he’s spot on. Tellina put up his normal average gallop, but then that’s him!”

Race 8 Gr1 SA Derby (Louis The King)

Trainer Geoff Woodruff and Robbie Fradd set for a huge Classic Day with Louis The King

Will Louis be King?

And what about Louis? “Nobody even wants to think about the Derby too much. You know, you can fret and worry and it’s not going to change anything. You’ve just got to do your work, that’s all. Louis is so fit now, he’s a picture of health. I just intend to keep it at that. Louis is Louis. We’re looking after him the same as the others. Robbie comes on Monday and basically it’s just business as usual from now till then. We’re watching everything obviously. We’ll take the routine blood tests and just treat things the same way.  All I can say is people who’ve watched him race can make up their own minds. He sits at the back, he looks after himself and he doesn’t pull. Robbie has felt, even as far back as the Guineas, that he wants further. That may or may not be correct, but he feels very confident.”

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