THE EARL RETURNS
The road has been a bumpy one for Earl Of Surrey since he won the Gr 1 Golden Horse Casino Sprint in May 2009, a race which proved to be his last for well over a year, but he proved conclusively that he can still perform at a high level by winning the Hawaii Stakes over 1400m on the Turffontein standside course on Saturday, writes Matthew Lips.
The seven-year-old had been run off his feet when only tenth in the Gr 1 Cape Flying Championship over 1000m in January, but his fans still had faith in the Earl and he went off as a well supported 9/2 second favourite in this conditions race. Those who have faith in the handicappers’ and their sums could not have failed to notice that Earl Of Surrey was weighted to win the Hawaii with a minimum of fuss, but a 12 draw and the very quiet spell being endured by the Geoff Woodruff stable were marks against him. Galileo’s Galaxy was sent off as the 3/1 favourite in a field of 14, with impressive recent Listed handicap winner Call To Combat the 5/1 third choice ahead of sole three-year-old Captain’s Key (11/2).
Captain’s Key set a brisk pace in the soft going and showed the way ahead of Galileo’s Galaxy and Call To Combat, with Miss Turbulence and Arabian Mist next in line as Earl Of Surrey was given a very patient ride from well off the pace. Captain’s Key is certainly game and continued to lead for much of the way down the straight, but the tank ran dry coming into the final 200m. Galileo’s Galaxy had found disappointingly little when the time came for his effort and coming to the last 100m the race briefly appeared to lie between Arabian Mist at the rail and Miss Turbulence wider out before Arabian Mist asserted himself and grabbed a clear advantage.
Earl Of Surrey, though, was now coming home wide out like a battleship under full steam. Eating into Arabian Mist’s lead, he collared the very game top weight in the final strides to beat him by a neck, with Miss Turbulence sharing third place with a running-on Ozymandias two lengths further adrift. This was a very pleasing effort from Ozymandias in his first venture into a race of remotely this calibre, for he met Earl Of Surrey on no fewer than 15.5 kgs worse terms than in a handicap. Galileo’s Galaxy eventually finished fifth, three lengths behind the winner.
Earl Of Surrey didn’t need to run anywhere close to his 114 merit rating to win and he was receiving 3 kgs from the 103-rated Arabian Mist, but he unleashed a turn of foot that would have done great credit to a much younger horse and it was a fine way in which to end what has been a long drought by his trainer’s high standards. This was in a sense the perfect race on paper for Earl Of Surrey, who is probably going to find life tough when racing on either handicap or WFA terms, and it will be hard to place him to win another big race. Whatever the future holds for the Zimbabwean-bred campaigner, he has been a terrific advertisement for the beleaguered breeding industry in his homeland, and for those who toiled hard to get him back winning races after his long absence from competition.
Earl Of Surrey is a son of Century Stand (one of only two horses ever to beat Horse Chestnut) out of the unraced Gay Fandango mare Bush Chic. Bred by Sarahdane Stud, he was a multiple Stakes winner from 1200m to 2400m when trained by Lisa Harris in Zimbabwe before relocating south and in total he has won fourteen races from 24 starts. Just how much he has earned in stake money is anybody’s guess, given that he was racing in Zimbabwe during the era of hyper-inflation and trillion dollar bank notes, but it is plenty.
Hawaii S. (SAf-G2) (2/26)
Turffontein, South Africa, February 26, R300.000, 1400m, turf, good, 1.25.54 (CR 1.21.41).
EARL OF SURREY (ZIM), 57.0, ch g 7, Century Stand (AUS) – Bush Chic (SAF) by Gay Fandango. Owner C J Smith and J Koumides; breeder Sarahdane Stud (ZIM); trainer GV Woodruff; jockey G Lerena (R187.500)
Arabian Mist (SAF), 60.0, b g 6, Muhtafal – Valley Mist (SAF) by Mount Hagen (FR)
*Ozymandias (SAF), 57.0, b g 4, Jallad – Ondina (SAF) by Caesour
*Miss Turbulence (SAF) 54.5, b m 6, Jet Master (SAF) – Fashion Edition (SAF) by Rambo Dancer
Margins: nk, 2, dead-heat
Also ran: Galileo’s Galaxy (AUS) 57.0, Call To Combat (SAF) 57.5, Captain’s Key (SAF) 54.0, Lightning Lecture (SAF) 57.0, Captain Scott (SAF) 57.5, Autumn Gold (SAF) 54.5, Intellectual (SAF) 57.0, Aslan (SAF) 59.5, Mpumelelo (SAF) 57.0, Iron Curtain (SAF) 58.5