Gr2 Merchants – Shades Of Indigo

Bolt From The Blue

Gr2 Betting World Merchants – last Sunday at Kenilworth

Shades Of Indigo has always been something of a Kenilworth 1200m specialist, but few were prepared for the 66/1 upset which he delivered when storming through from off the pace in his usual fashion to win the Betting World Merchants over that course-and-distance on Sunday, writes MATTHEW LIPS.

The grey had not finished closer than seventh in any of his last eight appearances, the most recent of which came on the sand at Flamingo Park, and he was one of the biggest outsiders in a field of 18 for Cape Town’s first major sprint race of the summer season.

Favourite for the Merchants was last season’s champion two-year-old colt Delago Deluxe, who was dropping back in distance after suffering a first career defeat in the Gr3 Cape Classic over 1400m a fortnight earlier. He was supported from an ante-post call of 4/1 to start as the 22/10 market leader, with his stable companion Rushing Wind second choice of punters at 11/2. The Shark was well backed at long odds to start at 15/2 from an opening call of 20/1, but there was no shortage of class on display and it was always distinctly possible that the race was more open than the market implied.

Captain Harry was quickly away and set a somewhat ordinary pace on ground which was officially good-to-soft after 24 millimetres of unseasonal rain had fallen on Kenilworth in the 24 hours before race day. Delago Deluxe and Sports Coach were prominent early, with Never Forever also showing up well just ahead of State Blue and Splash Gold. Delago Deluxe looked briefly as though he would mount a serious challenge going through the 200m mark, but he didn’t really find another gear and Captain Harry continued to blaze a trail up front as very few were really get into the race with a chance. It was only very late in the piece that Shades Of Indigo appeared from nowhere with a fine turn of foot, setting off in pursuit of Captain Harry over the final 100m and collaring the gallant pacesetter just short of the line to win by a head under Glen Hatt.

Delago Deluxe was probably not done any favours by his low 3 draw and may have had to try and mount his bid in what wasn’t the best of the going, but he could be argued to have more or less have had every chance on his handicap debut. He wasn’t disgraced, but he shouldered what could have been considered to be a very friendly 52 kgs and he looked like a useful rather than a special sprinting prospect with this performance. Rushing Wind as always did his best work late to finish less than half-a-length behind Delago Deluxe in fourth place and this former winner of the Gr3 Matchem Stakes over 1400m could now prefer a bit further than this even though he has been Gr1 placed over distances as short as 1000m in the past. His optimum distance is not easy to figure out, but he is becoming difficult to win with and has not landed a race for the best part of 18 months.

Wild Shot ran on to be beaten a fraction under two lengths behind the winner in fifth place, while 2009 Gr2 Dingaans winner Curved Ball gave some cause for optimism when finishing 3.25 lengths adrift of Shades Of Indigo in eighth place. He was making late headway in his first start since February 2010 and there is every reason to hope he can build on this encouraging effort. Splash Gold disappointingly finished with two behind him, with Past Master making no show on his seasonal reappearance and beating only one horse home. He can improve on this, but it is no secret that the most recent winner of the J & B Met has his problems and the distance offers little excuse as he easily won last season’s Gr2 Diadem Stakes over the Kenilworth 1200m.

Captain Harry deserves an honourable mention for going so close to landing the spoils in his first ever attempt in a handicap, but it wasn’t exactly a hotly contested lead that he enjoyed for much of the race and winning jockey Glen Hatt remarked afterwards that the ordinary pace had suited Shades Of Indigo perfectly. The Joey Ramsden-trained winner is at his best when able to race buried amongst a pack of horses and has to be delivered with a perfectly judged finish to hit the front in the final strides. He was able to accelerate better than most in what perhaps was a slightly false-run affair and a somewhat bunched finish further lends credence to the view that the pace was far from frantic for a sprint of this stature. As such the form may not stand up too literally, but in the words of his trainer the Merchants was Shades Of Indigo’s “one chance of the season to win something nice.” Ramsden went on to add that the six-year-old “doesn’t get one yard further nor one yard shorter” than 1200m, and indeed all seven of Shades Of Indigo’s career wins have came at that distance. All but his maiden victory – which came at Durbanville – have been recorded over the Merchants course-and-distance.

Shades Of Indigo is a son of the largely undistinguished Gone West stallion Indigo Magic. He is the third foal and third winner produced from Australian-bred Palace Music mare Palace Bride, who won three races over 1400m. Palace Bride’s first foal Silver Mist famously failed by a short head to beat Pocket Power when the champ won the first of his four Gr1 Queen’s Plates, and was later a winner in Dubai. Shades Of Indigo was bred at Arc-En-Ciel Stud on behalf of Midlands Equine and was acquired for R160 000 at the now discontinued Equimark Vintage Yearling Sale in 2007. He has won seven of 38 starts for R557 175 in stakes.

Betting World Merchants Hcp (SAf-G2) (11/13)
Kenilworth, South Africa, November 13, R300.000, 1200m, turf, good, 1.12.59 (CR 1.09.90).
SHADES OF INDIGO (SAF), 52.0, b g 6, Indigo Magic (GB) – Palace Bride (AUS) by Palace Music. Owner Miss G Burg and Mr M J T Wickens; breeder Midlands Equine (SAF); trainer J Ramsden; jockey G Wright (R187.500)
Captain Harry (SAF), 52.0, b c 4, Captain Al (SAF) – Ligera (ARG) by Ringaro
Delago Deluxe (AUS), 52.0, b c 3, Encosta De Lago (AUS) – Succeeding (AUS) by Flying Spur (AUS)
Margins: sh hd, 1¼, ½
Also ran: Rushing Wind (SAF) 57.0, Wild Shot (SAF) 52.0, Never Forever (SAF) 53.0, Captain’s Secret (SAF) 57.5, Curved Ball (AUS) 57.0, The Shark (ZIM) 52.0, State Blue (SAF) 55.0, Dance With Al (SAF) 54.5, Wethreekings (SAF) 54.5, Phantom Fighter (SAF) 52.0, Copa De La Rey (SAF) 52.0, Uncle Tommy (SAF) 52.0, Splash Gold (SAF) 59.0, Past Master (SAF) 61.0, Sports Coach (SAF) 54.0

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