Gr2 SA Oaks: Igugu Champion

Igugu jubilant connections

Igugu had no trouble whatsoever in making history when she became the first horse to win the Triple Tiara for three-year-old fillies by landing the SA Oaks over 2450m at Turffontein on Saturday, writes Matthew Lips.

Igugu had run out the very easy winner of the Gr 2 Gauteng Fillies Guineas and Gr 1 SA Fillies Classic which form the first two legs of the Triple Tiara and to most racing folks it was a foregone conclusion that she would pocket the R1 million bonus for winning all three races when she lined up against just eight rivals in the Oaks.

Bookmakers may have gone a touch over the top when they installed Igugu as a 1/10 ante-post favourite for the Oaks and she eventually started at a more “generous” 1/5.  Recent 2600m Listed winner Justthewayyouare brought guaranteed stamina to the party and went off as the 5/1 second favourite ahead of Igugu’s stable companion Ilha Grande, who had won the Listed Oaks Trial on handicap terms four weeks earlier and who was supported from an opening price of 14/1 to start at half those odds.

Princess Of Light set a reasonable early gallop from Igugu and Justthewayyouare, with Mar Lodge further back as Ilha Grande was held up amongst the backmarkers.  It was however all too easy to predict a long way from home what would happen next.  Princess Of Light continued valiantly to lead coming to the last 500m, but she was under pressure from a favourite who was plainly travelling the better of the two and Igugu was soon sent on her way.  With Justthewayyouare folding tamely early in the straight there was really not much left for Igugu to do except stay upright, and she simply stretched away imperiously to win by 5.75 lengths from a gallant Princess Of Light.  The latter had no chance in the end of emulating her half sister Arcola’s victory in this race twelve months ago, but she still had all of 6.5 lengths to spare over third placed Ilha Grande.  The latter in turn was fully 9.75 lengths in front of fourth placed Mar Lodge and the massively strung out finish says it all about the pecking order of the fillies who contested this race.

Justthewayyouare must have been a long way below her best and eventually finished plum last, 43 lengths behind Igugu.  Ilha Grande failed completely to confirm her one length defeat of Princess Of Light in the Oaks Trial, even allowing for a 2 kgs swing in favour of the latter on Saturday, but Igugu was nonetheless divisions better than any of them and took care of business accordingly.

“I don’t think I will ride a filly as good as her,” said winning jockey Anthony Delpech, who was clearly relieved at getting the pressure of riding such a hot favourite safely out of the way.  Whatever trace of a stamina doubt there may have been about a filly who had never raced beyond 1800m was swept away as Igugu saw out the Oaks trip in style.

“It’s a privilege to deal with a horse like this,” remarked trainer Mike de Kock, who added that she would now be entered for the Vodacom Durban July at the next nomination stage.  All being well, Igugu will take in the Gr 1 Woolavington 2000 at Greyville en route to the July and what is almost certain to be an international campaign thereafter, although De Kock still chided those who have started to make the almost inevitable comparison between Igugu and the trainer’s previous three-year-old July winning filly Ipi Tombe.   Whatever the champion trainer may be he is also a realist and Igugu didn’t have to put up one of the greatest performances in history to win the Oaks at level weights against rivals that were merit rated between 14 and 36 pounds her inferior, but while it’s jumping the gun even now to blindly assume she will take all the beating in the July she surely must have a very decent chance of winning the Greyville showpiece.

Australian-bred Igugu is a daughter of Galileo, who was responsible for a Classic double across two continents on Saturday when his unbeaten son Frankel ran out an astonishingly easy pillar-to-post winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.  Quite why Galileo – one of Europe’s consistently best sires – proved to be a virtual flop with his Australian runners (to the extent that he no longer shuttles Down Under) is a mystery that seems almost impossible to answer, but his Australian-sired progeny have enjoyed considerable success in South Africa.

Igugu is the second foal of unraced Intikhab mare Zarinia and was acquired for R1 million by Andre MacDonald at the 2009 Ready To Run Sale in Gauteng.  MacDonald, who now races the filly in partnership with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, cheerfully admitted that much of the credit for his going as high as a million bucks to buy Igugu belongs to a certain Johnnie Walker.    The million rand Triple Tiara bonus neatly covers the purchase price of the filly anyway, so it’s smiles all round and onward to the next assignment in KZN.

Igugu has won six of her eight starts with earnings (bonuses excluded) of R2 049 375.

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SA Oaks (SAf-G2) (4/30)
Turffontein, South Africa, April 30, R750.000, 2450m, turf, good, 2.34.18 (CR 2.31.59).
1- IGUGU (AUS), 58.0, b f 3, Galileo (IRE) – Zarinia (IRE) by Intikhab. Owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum and A J MacDonald; breeder Kia Ora Stud (AUS); trainer M F de Kock; jockey A Delpech (R468.750)
2 – Princess Of Light (SAF), 58.0, b f 3, Var – Star Of Arcole (SAF) by Foveros (GB)
3 – Ilha Grande (SAF), 58.0, b f 3, Tiger Ridge – Ilha Da Vitoria (BRZ) by Candy Stripes
Margins: 5¾, 6½, 9¾
Also ran: Mar Lodge (SAF) 58.0, Stormy Coast (SAF) 58.0, Cherry On The Cake (SAF) 58.0, Micro Jet (SAF) 58.0, Keep On Dreaming (SAF) 58.0, Justthewayyouare (SAF) 58.0

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