A freak accident cast a cloud over the 2015 KZN Champions Season opening day at Greyville on Saturday. Last year’s Vodacom Durban July winner Legislate was withdrawn at the start of the R350 000 Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes after appearing to get his near hind leg stuck in the back of his stall.
Horseracing has a quirky knack of souring chapters of some of the games’ fairytales and Legislate has not escaped the wrath of the authors of fate – particularly at Greyville.
Carrying joint topweight in a field of twelve Drill Hall Stakes contenders, the son of Dynasty was the centre of attention on his return to action after a sixteen week break following his below-par L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate effort.
As far as Champions Season launching pads goes, it was a forgettable day all round for Justin Snaith. And exotic punters suffered their own relative stress as the tote favourite indicator swung between Joey Ramsden’s King Of Pain and eventual winner Ice Machine, as the balance of the runners were unloaded to give bettors a few minutes to restructure.
In the end, Murphy stepped in and King Of Pain jumped favourite by a few cents.
While the official Stipes Report will hopefully provide an explanation, the starting stalls must surely be of some concern to the racing authorities – particularly after the recent Same Jurisdiction Gr1 Empress Club Stakes incident at Turffontein.
Both of these top horses coincidentally race in the Drakenstein silks.
Alec Laird’s pair of Chekilli and Bouclette Top ensured a decent pace all the way round and into the straight, with Marcus sitting with a double handful in midfield on Ice Machine, who really looked to be enjoying the experience.
Bouclette Top continued to roll ahead of Chekilli going into the 300m, but Ice Machine loomed ominously and, other than a switch around Grant Van Niekerk and Helderberg Blue, he made up the leeway in a matter of strides.
At the 200m marker Ice Machine was patently going lengths better than anything else and the gelding ran on powerfully to give Marcus a feature double on the day.
He beat the game Bouclette Top by three lengths in a time of 83,05 secs.
A running on Ashton Park (he always seems to find himself a few lengths behind the action) grabbed third a further half-length back, with Chekilli stopping late to run fourth.
The fancied King Of Pain was never going like a winner and finished well downfield as did the former Geoff Woodruff runner Sabadell, who stopped to run last.
This was a big win for Ice Machine and a story of patient and staunch perseverance on the part of the Meakers.
The unsound 6yo gelding has been around a few trainers in his time. He was former champion jockey Garth Puller’s first Met runner as a trainer and he won a career peak Gr2 Green Point Stakes in 2013 for Dean Kannemeyer – which was his last win.
Playing the role of the ‘third man’, Charles Laird has done well in just two runs – a second to Power King in a conditions plate at end March and now a confidence boosting victory that bodes well for his Champions Season prospects.
Bred by longstanding owner Roy Meaker, who races him in partnership with his wife, Gladys, Ice Machine is a son of Silvano out of the three time winning Elliodor mare Skid Alley – who was trained by Dean Kannemeyer.
The 6yo gelding registered his eighth win with 6 places from 25 starts, taking his stake earnings with this victory to R903 700.
The locals will be toasting Charles Laird who broke the Cape feature run – but there will be a good few from all over going back to the drawing board.
Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes (SAf-Gr2)
Greyville, South Africa, May 2, R350k, 1400m, turf, good, 1.23.05
1 – ICE MACHINE (SAF), 59.0, b g 6, Silvano (GER) – Skid Alley (SAF) by Elliodor (FR). Owner Mrs G E Meaker & Royal Albatross Investments (Pty) Ltd (Nom : Mr R Meaker (Snr) ); Breeder R Meaker; trainer CS Laird; jockey A Marcus
2 – Bouclette Top (ARG), 58.0, br g 4, Giant’s Causeway (USA) – Bouclette Glory (ARG) by Honour And Glory (USA)
3 – Ashton Park (SAF), 58.0, b g 5, Battersea Park (SAF) – Hunters Prayer (SAF) by Jet Master (SAF)
Margins: 3.00, 0.50, 0.75