Gr2 J&B Stayers: What A Girl

Karl Neisius will have to wait yet another year for the opportunity to secure his first  success in the J&B Met after Fort Vogue failed for a second time to plug this yawning hole in the veteran rider’s superb CV, but Neisius will still be highly satisfied with his afternoon’s work at Kenilworth on Saturday.  Having partnered Covenant to success in the Gr1 Klawervlei Majorca Stakes, he brought the curtain down on Met day 2011 in resounding fashion when steering Sangria Girl to her second successive win in the Gr2 J&B Reserve Stayers over 2800m, writes Matthew Lips.

The 2010 winner of the traditional Met day closer was ignored by punters despite a return to form when winning a Listed handicap against her own sex a fortnight earlier and was allowed to start as a 20/1 outsider in a field of 17.  Cree Lodge looked to be quite well weighted in this conditions race and was heavily supported to start as the 3/1 favourite from an ante-post call of double those odds.  We Three also found plenty of support and started as the 7/2 second choice after opening at six’s, but neither ever threatened to land a blow.

Sangria Girl had led for most of the way when she won the equivalent race twelve months earlier, but she adopted very different tactics here.  Drawn wide and shouldering joint top weight of 60 kgs, the mare was settled some way back in the pack as Hospitality set a reasonable pace from Macchiato, Winter’s Night and Two Strikes.  Cree Lodge and We Three were both waited with in around midfield as Roused played catch-up at the rear after losing lengths at the jump.

Hospitality can be a dour frontrunner when he’s on top of his game, so much so that it would not come as a huge surprise should he one day find himself competing over the sticks in Europe.  Be that as it may, he proved a tough nut to crack here.  Two Strikes had been close to the action throughout and managed to edge his way past Hospitality deep inside the final furlong, but in turn he was unable to repel the finishing effort of Sangria Girl.  Quickening nicely and brought wider out with a splendidly-timed challenge, Sangria Girl wore down both Two Strikes and Hospitality in the final stages to win by half-a-length from Two Strikes, with Hospitality eventually beaten the same margin further back into third.

Grey Cossack stayed on well and was 1.25 lengths behind Hospitality in fourth, but We Three and Cree Lodge could only finish seventh and eleventh respectively.  It was a disappointing display from Cree Lodge, who had been beaten half-a-length by Two Strikes on 5 kgs worse terms over 2500m in December and who could  reasonably have been expected to have no difficulty reversing that form, but races aren’t run on paper and he simply didn’t quicken when push came to shove.  Two Strikes ran an absolute stormer to finish second, facing Sangria Girl on 6 kgs worse terms than would have been the case had the race been a handicap (as it was, until a few years ago).

That said, Sangria Girl also ran above her merit rating by winning, but she had the proven stamina on her side while such seemingly better weighted rivals as Winter’s Night and We Three did not.  Now aged six, Sangria Girl put up perhaps the best performance of her 31-start career to win this prize for a second time and this seems to underline once again that many fillies are retired from racing before they reach their prime.  There are obviously very good commercial reasons for this in many instances, but Sangria Girl’s dam was also kept in training for an extended period and was herself a winner at the age of six.   You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand why a blue-blood like Covenant is unlikely to still be racing when she’s that age, but with all due respect Sangria Girl comes from a much less fashionable background and is well worth racing on for as long as she can win races with six figure purses – as she has already done twice in 2011.

Sangria Girl has been a credit to both her owner John Harrison and her trainer Greg Ennion, a man with a sharp eye for acquiring inexpensive horses that can run and who paid a very modest R60 000 to acquire the dual Reserve Stayers heroine at the 2006 National Yearling Sale.  Sangria Girl is by deceased Wolfhound and is the fourth foal (and only the first winner) produced from her dam Concetta.  A daughter of Jungle Rock, Concetta was a very useful racemare herself and won eight races up to 1800m including the Listed (now Gr 3) Victress Stakes, but this is a distinctly blue-collar pedigree.

Sangria Girl’s second dam produced five foals in addition to Concetta and not one of them won a race, while her third dam produced three winners (none of them with even lower case Black Type) from ten foals.  One just never knows, does one? Bred by Gary Player Stud, Sangria Girl has won ten times from her 31 appearances and earned R927 325.  She is one tough cookie, and she richly deserves to break through the million rand earnings mark, no matter how frequent an achievement that may be nowadays.


J&B Reserve Stayers (SAf-G2) (1/29)

Kenilworth, South Africa, January 29, R300.000, 2800m, turf, good, 2.57.23 (CR 2.53.10).

SANGRIA GIRL (SAF), 60.0, ch m 6, Wolfhound – Concetta (SAF) by Jungle Rock (SAF). Owner John G Harrison; breeder Gary Player Stud (SAF); trainer G W Ennion; jockey K Neisius (R187.500)

Two Strikes (SAF), 60.0, ch h 5, Strike Smartly (CAN) – Striking Gold (SAF) by Fort Wood

Hospitality (SAF), 60.0, b g 5, Badger’s Drift (SAF) – Party Hostess (SAF) by Jallad

Margins: ½, ½, 1¼

Also ran: Grey Cossack (SAF) 58.0, Macchiato (SAF) 58.0, Tassie Belle (SAF) 56.5, We Three (SAF) 56.5, Winter’s Night (SAF) 58.0, Cracker Jack (SAF) 58.0, Predestination (AUS) 59.5, Cree Lodge (SAF) 58.0, Hawk’s Eye (GB) 60.0, Just Like Al (SAF) 59.5, Noblewood (SAF) 59.5, Sun City (SAF) 59.5, Louie’s Pride (SAF) 59.5, Roused (AUS) 58.0

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