The Rainbow Bridge master plan to attack up the outside rail to win Saturday’s R1 million Gr1 Cape Town Met was hatched well in advance of the race and carried out to clockwork precision by 19 year old reigning SA Champion Apprentice, and now a fully-fledged jockey, Luke Ferraris.
Saturday’s 159th renewal of the Cape flagship was held without a spectator in sight for the first time in its history.
But the morbid absence of buzz and on-course atmosphere was hardly noticed as Avontuur’s massively talented fresh-faced flagbearer Luke Ferraris rode himself into the history books as the youngest modern era jockey to win the race.
Coming from last turning for home, he charged up the outside rail on Eric Sands’ 6yo Rainbow Bridge – only the third horse after Politician and Pocket Power to win the great race more than once.
Multiple Met winning jockey Garth Puller told the Sporting Post that the young Ferraris rode ‘the perfect race’.
“Luke rode Rainbow Bridge like this really good horse wants to be ridden. He is a top horse who wants to be sat on – that’s what he needed, and he enjoyed going to fetch the opposition. Luke really got it right – a jolly good ride. I’m so happy for him and his family – these are defining moments in a young man’s career,” said the former champion.
A third generation member of a famous SA horseracing family, with Granddad Ormond and Dad David great trainers in their own right, Luke also became the first Ferraris to win the Met.
It was a sunny Saturday in January 1998 that Piere Strydom produced the David Ferraris-trained North By Northwest who flew up to head Anthony Delpech and Imperious Sue in the final stages of the R750 000 J&B Met. Just when it looked like the Ferraris team would be celebrating, David Payne’s Imperious Sue dug deep with her 5,5 kg weight advantage to reel in North By Northwest and gain the narrowest of verdicts.
While he was only born a couple of years later, Luke Ferraris was to be the man to engrave his famous family name on the Met silverware twenty two years after his Dad’s crushing disappointment.
The soft spoken rider said that the plan on Saturday was always to switch to the outside of the track in the run for home.
“Rainbow Bridge is a horse with a reputation for hanging out. So we knew that if we went to the outside he could hang all he wanted, and it would not make any difference. That way we also avoided trouble, scrimmaging and any traffic issues. He was so relaxed at the back of the field, and when I asked him he responded like a horse who knew exactly what he wanted.”
Luke said that it was around the 100m marker that he drew level with Belgarion and felt he had the race wrapped up.
“Richard Fourie probably got away two or three lengths from us on Belgarion on the inside of the track – but Rainbow Bridge has such an unbelievable turn of foot, he converted the deficit in strides. He really was at the top of his game on Saturday. All credit to Mr Eric Sands and his team for having him so well.”
We asked if the message from the veteran trainer on Friday evening that he felt he had the right jockey on board was any pressure?
“To the contrary, Mr Sands’ endorsement actually boosted my confidence and I went into the race full of positivity. It’s a good feeling for a jockey when you have the belief of the team behind you. And I’m proud to have achieved this victory in the famous Rattray silks. At this point I want to mention my sponsors, Avontuur. Pippa Mickleburgh has been a truly wonderful support and sounding board. I really do appreciate and value everybody’s support – and that includes my wonderful family!”
We asked him how it felt to have bagged South Africa’s most prestigious race just months after coming out of his apprenticeship, and to have topped what British champion Ryan Moore couldn’t do twelve months earlier when running second on Rainbow Bridge to One World.
Luke said that he could not have achieved what he had in his short career without the rides and support of leading stables, and that international champions like Ryan Moore were his role models when growing up.
“Words really cannot describe how it felt to win the Met. I’m still digesting it and replaying the race in my mind.It feels a bit surreal.”
While Luke lives with his good friend and colleague Lyle Hewitson in Johannesburg, we asked if he was finding it difficult with his family so far away in Hong Kong?
“I had them all on the phone all of Saturday evening. They are all so chuffed about the Met win. I miss them naturally, but I have been away at boarding school for many years – so one gains independence and it toughens us up.”
What are his future plans?
“I am looking forward to riding Malmoos for Mr De Kock on Saturday in the Gauteng Guineas. He drew against the paint and we’d like to bounce back from his Cape Guineas performance – he is much better than that,” he said of the impressive 3yo who won his first four on the trot before a below-par effort in the classic in December.
While there is talk about Australian plans, we asked if Hong Kong was on his radar and would he go East if given the opportunity?
“That’s out of my hands entirely. I am working hard to gain experience and ride as many winners as possible. To answer your question – yes, I would definitely go and ride in Hong Kong if the opportunity ever presented itself.”
Watch the race here