“Bling Your Pink” may have been the theme of Saturday’s Sansui Summer Cup and every shade of rose or cerise or just plain old pink was on display as a large part of the sizeable crowd got in on the act, but green-and-white were the dominant colours in the race itself when Dancewiththedevil produced her trademark turn of foot to win the 2000m handicap around Turffontein’s standside course, writes MATTHEW LIPS.
Putting some arguably disappointing recent efforts behind her, and finally laying any stamina doubts to rest, the five-year-old mare took Johannesburg’s self-proclaimed Number One race by the scruff of the neck to record her fourth Gr 1 victory of 2011 – a feat not even matched by the mighty Igugu, who has “only” won three times at the highest level this calendar year. We’ll conveniently overlook the little fact that Igugu has only contested three Gr 1 races this year while Dancewiththedevil has pitched up for seven of them, but you know what they say about lies, damned lies, and statistics.
With Igugu being aimed at other things and not taking her chances here, it was ultra-consistent The Apache who was supported from an ante-post call of 11/2 to start as the 75/20 favourite in a maximum field of 20 for the Summer Cup, replacing original market leader Pierre Jourdan at the top of the boards. Ilsanpietro was the 13/2 third choice of punters, but there was plenty of support for several of the longer-priced runners, not least Magical. Arguably a most unlucky loser when finishing second in this race two years ago, Magical went off as an 11/1 chance after trading at 40/1 in the ante-post market. 2008 Summer Cup winner Rudra found some support at big prices despite being drawn the worst of all, with Dancewiththedevil starting as a 15/1 chance.
The weather played its part and cleared up to a splendid summer’s day after heavy rain earlier in the week, with the race run on ground officially labelled “good” but with the sting just taken out of it. Captain Scott was the first to hop out, but soon it was Jet Jamboree who tried to take advantage of the absence of any obvious pace in the Summer Cup field. As many had predicted, master tactician Piere Strydom elected to try and control the race to suit himself, allowing Jet Jamboree to set a good initial early pace from Captain Scott, Soul Master, Princess Of Light and Pierre Jourdan, who was caught wide after breaking from the 19 gate. The Apache was nicely poised not far off the leaders as the pace slowed right down between the turns, with Soul Master passing Captain Scott to be second behind his fellow Michael de Broglio-owned Jet Jamboree turning for home. Pierre Jourdan must have been seven horses wide coming into the straight, but The Apache had a lovely spot over towards the inside, courtesy of his 1 draw.
Rudra was brought ride to the grandstand rail in the straight as the field employed the entire width of the course, with The Apache and Ilsanpietro getting into it over towards the far side as the frontrunners weakened inside the last 300m. Princess Of Light had looked briefly dangerous before coming to the end of her run, while Pierre Jourdan began to back-pedal a long way from home. Even so the race resembled a cavalry charge coming past the 200m pole, with any number of possible winners as Rudra and Ilsanpietro both threatened to credit champion trainer Mike de Kock with his umpteenth winner in this particular event, but Dancewiththedevil dashed all their hopes when flashing between runners inside the last 100m to draw clear over the final strides under Gavin Lerena and win by a rapidly widening 1.25 lengths. Nor for the first time, the St John Gray bred, trained, and owned mare looked to have parachuted into a race from nowhere and her burst of finishing speed was simply too much for everyone else to cope with.
Ilsanpietro ran on steadily to come out second best, half-a-length in front of his stable companion Rudra, who put up a smashing effort from his poor draw. The Apache had every chance before he finished a further three-quarters of a length away in fourth. Using Ilsanpietro as a line horse, The Apache ran less than a length below the form of their previous meeting in the Gr 2 Victory Moon Stakes won by Smanjemanje 15 days earlier, but the Summer Cup weights were much less favourable towards Smanjemanje and he made no impact on this occasion. Magical was never sighted before he finished 7.5 lengths behind the winner in eighth place, while Pierre Jourdan was eased when his chance was gone and trailed in with only one horse behind him. 2010 Summer Cup with Flirtation made no show this time around.
Dancewiththedevil has always appeared to be at her most effective when the going is not too quick and she found conditions spot on, with Gavin Lerena confirming that “the sting out of the ground helped her.” The very visible slowing down of the pace around 1400m or 1200m out also played into her hands, according to Lerena, who noted that this allowed him to get the mare into the race instead of Dacewiththedevil finding herself out of her ground and being niggled along to keep up – which has happened before.
St John Gray – resplendently turned out in a less glaring shade of pink than many of his fellow racegoers – was predictably full of praise for his superb mare. “I always held the belief that she would stay 2000m”, he remarked, although confessing that Dancewiththedevil’s disappointing effort in the Gr 1 Champions Challenge over the Summer Cup course-and-distance back in April had created some doubts about her stamina. “She has her aches and pains like any top athlete,” added the owner/trainer/breeder, noting that Dancewiththedevil is visited by a physiotherapist three times a week. However, St John would not be drawn into announcing future stud or sale plans for Dancewiththedevil, repeating “let’s not talk about that now” whenever he was pressed on the subject. “She’s mine, and I love her”, was his final comment on that subject.
The Summer Cup is a handicap and as such has not always been won by a horse that is absolutely out of the top drawer, but Dancewiththedevil can rate as one of its best winners of recent vintage. Three of her four Gr 1 victories have come against male rivals, and she won this conceding weight to all but Pierre Jourdan and The Apache. She has maintained the good record by females in recent editions of the race, following in the hoofprints of the likes of Ilha Da Vitoria and Flirtation, and once again made the old saw about good colts always beating good fillies look about as profound as Neville Chamberlain’s infamous “peace in our time” sound bite from the year before World War 2 erupted. If your dictionary tells you that “always” means the same thing as “sometimes”, buy a new dictionary.
Dancewiththedevil is by several light years the best horse sired by the otherwise undistinguished Modus Vivendi, a One-Hit-Wonder of a stallion if ever there was one. She is out of the Caesour mare Emperor’s Dance, who won three races over 1000m from only eight starts and who finished second at Listed level. Now the winner of eight races from 17 starts, Dancewiththedevil has earned R3 278 425 in stakes.
Sansui Summer Cup (SAf-G1) (11/26)
Turffontein, South Africa, November 26, R2 million, 2000m, turf, good, 2.01.82 (CR 2.00.13).
1- DANCEWITHTHEDEVIL (SAF), 58.0, b m 5, Modus Vivendi (GB) – Emperor’s Dance (SAF) by Caesour. Owner & trainer S D Gray; breeder Graystone Stud (SAF); jockey G Lerena (R1.250.000)
2- Ilsanpietro (BRZ), 56.5, b g 5, Mark Of Esteem (IRE) – My Little Life (BRZ) by Ghadeer (FR)
3- Rudra (SAF), 55.0, ch g 7, Parade Leader – Tawny Red (SAF) by Northfields
Margins: 1¼, ½, ¾
Also ran: The Apache (SAF) 58.5, Smanjemanje (SAF) 53.5, Regal Ransom (SAF) 52.5, Flirtation (SAF) 53.5, Magical (SAF) 53.0, Princess Of Light (SAF) 53.5, Perana (AUS) 52.5, Bulsara (SAF) 55.0, Soul Master (SAF) 52.0, Black Wing (SAF) 55.0, Queen’s Bay (SAF) 54.5, Captain Scott (SAF) 52.0, Jet Jamboree (SAF) 54.5, Gold Onyx (NZ) 52.0, Power Park (SAF) 52.0, Pierre Jourdan (SAF) 60.0, Seal (SAF) 55.0