Gr2 Premier’s Trophy: Pop The Corks For Cask

Fort Wood gelding gets up with late run to collar Super Storm

a man and his horse - the winner's box (hamish NIVEN Photography)

Cask looks to be a progressive four-year-old and earned himself a tilt at the J & B Met when he unleashed an impressive late turn of foot to win the Midmar Premier Trophy over 1800m at Kenilworth on Saturday.  Having his second start since joining trainer Stephen Page from the now-retired Mike de Beer, Cask coped impressively with a considerable step up in grade after appearing to be an unlucky loser on his seasonal debut over 1600m four weeks earlier.

The Premier Trophy looked to be a wide open affair, despite being a conditions event and not a handicap.  Fort Vogue was sent off as the 4/1 favourite in a field of 15 after a decent effort when hampered at a vital stage in the Gr 2 Green Point Stakes three weeks earlier.  Ante-post favourite Bravura was the 11/2 second choice ahead of 6/1 chance Super Storm, while Cask found support at bigger prices and started as a 7/1 shot from an ante-post call of 12/1.

Arabian Empire hopped out smartly, but before long it was Grafton Street – winner of this event all the way back in 2005 – who went on to adopt his customary frontrunning tactics.  He set a respectable pace ahead of Arabian Empire and Bravura, with League Of Honour right in touch as well.  Russian Sage was further back and caught a little wide as Cask raced amongst the backmarkers.  Grafton Street still led halfway down the straight, but was being hard pressed by Bravura on the inside and League Of Honour wider out.  Super Storm was starting to launch his challenge and was right in contention as they entered the final 200m, with Fort Vogue starting to make steady headway wide out.

Bravura and Super Storm were having something of a ding-dong battle coming to the final 100m, when Cask appeared almost from nowhere.  Switched around horses to secure a run, Cask flashed past them all to lead just a few strides from the post and win by half-a-length going away from Super Storm, with Bravura only a neck further back in third.  In Writing ran on steadily and was half-a-length behind Bravura in fourth, while Fort Vogue eventually finished fifth, 1.75 lengths behind the winner.  Grafton Street faded to finish 11th, with Russian Sage eventually beating only one runner home.

This was a promising display from Bravura, who conceded 4 kgs to the two that beat him, and last season’s Gr 1 Cape Derby winner seems to be coming to hand at the right time for his attempt at the J & B Met.  This was only his second start since he returned from an injury enforced lay-off and it was a considerable improvement on his first, where he made no real show in the Green Point Stakes.  Super Storm also showed plenty of promise by finishing second at level weights with the winner and there is surely a decent race to be won with Mike Bass’ Rakeen gelding at some stage.

Cask - canterdown to glory (hamish NIVEN Photography)

Cask was given a perfectly judged ride from Richard Fourie, who described his mount as a “very underrated, very good horse.”  “He’s quite an exciting horse and he was up against it here,” noted winning trainer Stephen Page, who confirmed that Cask would be targeted at the Met but who has no firm plans about where to run his gelding again before the big race.

Winners of the Premier Trophy don’t have a great record in the J & B Met and Cask will certainly need to lift his game plan further still if he is to have a serious chance against the very best middle distance horses around.  There was plenty to like about the way in which he made up the ground after being in the last three for most of the journey, though, and he proved himself to be considerably better than his 96 merit rating in a race where the second and third were both weighted to beat him and the fourth was weighted to dead-heat with him.  A Met win is an awful lot to ask, but we may have yet to see the very best of Cask.

Cask is owned by his breeder Mrs Bridget Oppenheimer.  A son of Fort Wood, he is out of the Australian-bred Danehill mare Brandy Butter, who won four races between 1200/1400m in South Africa.  The Premier Trophy marked his third win from twelve starts and took his career earnings to R329 450.

Midmar Premier Trophy (SAf-G2) (12/11)

Kenilworth, South Africa, December 11, R300.000, 1800m, turf, good, 1.52.46 (CR 1.48.98).

CASK (SAF), 56.5, b g 4, Fort Wood – Brandy Butter (AUS) by Danehill. Owner Mrs B D Oppenheimer; breeder Mauritzfontein Stud (SAf); trainer S H Page; jockey R Fourie (R198.913)

Super Storm (SAF), 56.5, ch g 4, Rakeen – Western Roll (SAF) by Western Winter

Bravura (SAF), 60.5, b g 4, Silvano (GER) – Musing (SAF) by Centenary

Margins: ½, nk, ½

Also ran: In Writing (ARG) 57.0, Fort Vogue (SAF) 60.0, Fabiani (SAF) 60.0, Paddy O’Reilly (SAF) 56.5, Last Regal (SAF) 58.0, Saluki (GB) 58.5, Pergamon Alter (SAF) 57.0, Grafton Street (SAF) 57.0, Noblewood (SAF) 58.0, League Of Honour (AUS) 56.5, Russian Sage (SAF) 57.0, Arabian Empire (AUS) 52.0

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