Strike two Var! Avontuur’s supersire marked a unique Gr1 double when Charles Laird’s 3yo Contador bounded clear to win the Gr1 R750 000 Golden Horse Sprint Handicap at Scottsville on Saturday. The chestnut speedster beat a good field in South Africa’s top sprint handicap.
The pinnacle of the Gr1 Scottsville Sprint Festival, the Golden Horse Sprint, attracted a high powered field of sixteen runners. In a golden hour for Var, Contador streaked clear to win a humdinger just after Via Africa had won the SA Fillies Sprint in scintillating style.
In a quirk of beautiful irony, it was also most appropriate that Avontuur General Manager Pippa Mickleburgh bred the winner, from her own mare, Fine Wood.
The Var success story is not even a decade in the writing, but the achievements of the son of Forest Wildcat have changed the landscape of the South African racing and breeding industry in seven years.
One of the fastest horses in the world at his peak, the European Champion Sprinter has produced the likes of current SA Horse Of The Year Variety Club, the Champion Sprinter Val De Ra, the superb Via Africa and a host of Group performers.
Speaking after the race an emotional Pippa Mickleburgh said that the Avontuur mantra of staying true and honest and working hard with passion and kindness has always been a philosophy that has marked everything they did.
“That may sound a touch melodramatic or wishy washy but that is how we are and we will never change. We love our horses and we love our people. Those are the two components that make this game great. As for Var, what more does one say? He has certainly changed Avontuur and all of our lives forever!”
Pippa closed by saying that the show of support from all over the world was amazing:
“The amount of emails, sms`s, bbm`s and telephone calls I received after this great double is truly breathtaking. Friends, clients, trainers, breeders and colleagues have inundated us with good wishes. I feel so blessed to enjoy this kind of support. The level of sportsmanship and goodwill is just mind boggling,” she said.
The race itself went perfectly according to plan for the winner, although Dean Kannemeyer’s flyer Cape Royal was not in the mood for racing. He stepped out of the gate and turned around, effectively ruining his chances.
But Barbosa and the backed Royal Zulu Warrior were quickly away with Contador tucked in.
At the 400m marker Contador moved in for the kill with Coffee Sheik and Wild Type looking for room.
At the 200m Contador burst through down the middle with Wild Type finding space and running on strongly.
But the revitalised Contador won at 13 to 1 by a length in a time of 68,21 secs
Stuart Randolph picked up a chance ride on Gavin Van Zyl’s Wild Type and he ran on well for second, while the De Kock pair of Merhee and Desert Sheik were not disgraced in third and fourth respectively.
Winning jockey Piere Strydom, who made it a personal Var double after he had won earlier on Casual Var for Justin Snaith, said that the race had always looked open, but that gelding had made all the difference to the talented 3yo.
“I don’t get a lot of rides from Charles (Laird) and my concern was the weight. But the diet was certainly worth it. The race worked out perfectly and the speed out front gave me a chance to sit in behind them and relax him,” he said.
Winning trainer Charles Laird said that he had been particularly lucky with the Jooste horses on this big race day. “We just seem to race the right kind of horses to win these races. It is my eighth Gr1 on the Scottsville Sprint Festival day,” he said with a smile.
Contador has now won 5 races with 4 places from 11 starts. He took his stake earnings to R736 440.
What more do we say about Var?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say.
.Golden Horse Sprint (SAf-G1) (5/25) Scottsville, South Africa, May 25, R750.000, 1200m, turf, 1.08.20 1 -CONTADOR (SAF), 53.5, ch g 3, Var (USA) – Fine Wood (SAF) by Fort Wood (USA). Owner I Jooste & MJ Jooste; breeder PLV Mickleburgh; trainer CS Laird; jockey P Strydom (R468.750) 2 – Wild Type (SAF), 55.0, b g 6, Strike Smartly (USA) – Wild Olive (SAF) by Fort Wood (USA) 3 – Merhgee (AUS), 53.5, b c 4, Elusive Quality (USA) – Dizzy de Lago (AUS) by Encosta de Lago (AUS) Margins: 1, 1¼, 1