Gr1 Paddock Stakes: Bright Emerald

Emerald Cove another big winner for sire Captain Al

The Justin Snaith yard’s terrific Cape summer season continued unabated when three-year-old Emerald Cove gave some high class older females something to remember her by with a 20/1 surprise in the TBA Paddock Stakes over 1800m at Kenilworth on Saturday.  The first Gr 1 event of 2011 was the third race contested at the highest level in the Cape this season after the Fillies Guineas and the Guineas – both of which also went the way of the Snaith boys, writes Matthew Lips.

Emerald Cove had been well beaten behind her top flight stable companion Ebony Flyer in both the Gr 2 Odessa Stud Fillies Championship and the Gr 1 Avontuur Estate Fillies Guineas, and came into the Paddock Stakes flying a long way below the radar of most punters.  Favourite for this almost legendary WFA event for fillies and mares was Gr 1 Sansui Summer Cup winner Flirtation, who went off as a strongly supported 17/10 market leader in a field of 14.  Love Is In The Air was the 4/1 second favourite, with A Daughters Legacy having her supporters at 7/1.

The early pace was reasonable but far from frantic as Imperious Star came across from her wide draw to show the way initially from Love Is In The Air, but the latter eventually settled into around fifth or six spot in a race which saw several early changes to the running order..  Tree Flag went round horses to race in second, with Zirconeum also progressing early to sit in third spot ahead of A Daughters Legacy,  Tick Tock , Love Is In The Air, and Emerald Cove.    Flirtation was as always held up off the pace, with We Three also quite some way off the early action.

Love Is In The Air came through to challenge for the lead racing into the last 300m, where Imperious Star was coming under pressure.  Emerald Cove was working her way into the fray wider out, with Tick Tock and Zirconeum still in the hunt as Flirtation began to unwind a challenge towards the outside.  Love Is In The Air led inside the final 200m, but she was then run out of it as Emerald Cove was driven to the front around 100m from home, with Flirtation on the chase.  The favourite was running on very strongly, but her effort had come too late and she was beaten three-quarters of a length into second by Emerald Cove, who was driven to victory by a Felix Coetzee who is still as hungry as ever for winners big and small at the age of fifty-one.

Love Is In The Air only lost second place to Flirtation in virtually the last stride and finished a head away in third, with We Three – a stable companion to the winner – running on to be a further 1.25 lengths adrift in fourth.  A Daughters Legacy found the step up to meeting this class of field at level weights a bit too much and was never really dangerous once the race began in earnest, while Imperious Star weakened rather tamely and still isn’t back to the horse she was during the last KZN winter season.

A stronger pace would have suited Flirtation better given her style of racing from well off the early action and she was certainly not disgraced to finish less than a length behind a winner for whom the race unfolded very nicely.  That only five lengths separated the first five to finish in a WFA event does make the form perhaps look slightly suspect and it would seem to tell a story about the fairly ordinary nature of the pace at which it was run, but the two highest rated horses still managed to finish second and third.  It may not have been a helter-skelter race, but it certainly wasn’t one of those crawl-and-sprint farces that can be the bane of Cape Town racing.

This victory by Emerald Cove inevitably had pundits asking themselves just how good her stable companion Ebony Flyer must be ahead of the latter’s bid to win the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate later on the card, and while almost all of us now know how that panned out Emerald Cove nevertheless paid her fellow Snaith trainee a massive compliment.

Both her jockey and her trainer confirmed that Emerald Cove had worked extremely well during the week, with Coetzee admitting that he had wanted to ride We Three but was persuaded by his agent to take the mount on Emerald Cove instead.  A little bonus for the lad seems to be in order, Felix!

Emerald Cove is by this season’s current leading sire Captain Al.  She is the third foal and third winner of Caesour mare Resolution Bay, who won four races up to 1600m including a Listed event.  Bred at Klawervlei Stud and bought for R160 000 at the 2009 National Yearling Sale, Emerald Cove is co-owned by Ken Truter (who also raced Resolution Bay) and the Late Jim Russell.  She has now won five times from twelve starts for stakes of R973 550.  The Gr 1 Majorca Stakes for fillies and mares over 1600m on J & B Met day later this month seems to present itself as an obvious next target for Emerald Cove

TBA Paddock S. (SAf-G1) (1/8)

Kenilworth, South Africa, January 8, R1 million, 1800m, turf, good, 1.51.56 (CR 1.48.98).

EMERALD COVE (SAF), 54.0, b f 3, Captain Al (SAF) – Resolution Bay (SAF) by Caesour. Owner K P Truter and late J G Russell; breeder Klawervlei Stud (SAf); trainer J Snaith; jockey F Coetzee (R663.043)

Flirtation (SAF), 59.5, ch f 4, Silvano (GER) – French Treasure (SAF) by Mullineaux

Love Is In The Air (SAF), 60.0, b m 5, Jet Master (SAF) – Careful Step (SAF) by Jungle Cove

Margins: ¾, nose, 1¾

Also ran: We Three (SAF) 59.5, Sunsational (SAF) 60.0, A Daughters Legacy (SAF) 60.0, Reconcile (SAF) 60.0, Imperious Star (SAF) 59.5, Tassie Belle (SAF) 59.5, Tick Tock (SAF) 59.5, Margaret Court (SAF) 54.0, Zirconeum (SAF) 60.0, Flaming Dame (SAF) 54.0, Tree Flag (SAF) 60.0

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