Perana was by far and away the most inexperienced horse in the 16 runner line-up, and boy did it show, but even his almost complete lack of street smarts couldn’t stop him from winning the Victory Moon Stakes over 1800m at Turffontein (standside) on Friday evening. Racing for the first time since July and for only the fourth time in total, Perana did his level best to throw the race away but recovered his composure in time to get the better of some highly seasoned campaigners and in the process stamped himself out to be a three-year-old of very real potential, writes Matthew Lips.
Perana had not been seen out since he finished fifth in the Gr 1 Premier’s Champion Stakes at Greyville fifteen weeks earlier, a race in which he was supported as if the result was known but where he eventually never really got into the hunt. That didn’t discourage his fans from having another tilt at the bookies on Friday and Perana eventually started as 75/20 favourite for the Victory Moon after being available at virtually twice that price in the ante-post market. His stable companion Zirconeum was the 4/1 second choice after an encouraging first start back from Dubai, while lightly weighted Quick Single found plenty of backers and was the 5/1 third favourite.
Despite his lack of a recent run, Perana wasted little time in taking charge and very soon found himself in front, setting a decent pace ahead of Cracker Jack and Vertical Takeoff, with Power Park next in line. Zirconeum and top weighted Mother Russia were waited with in the pack as Rudi Rocks brought up the rear. Perana was still doing everything right way as he brought the field into the straight, but he was about to give his backers every reason to throw up their arms in horror (and throw their tickets into the nearest dustbin.)
Perana seemed to almost stop in his tracks and ducked sharply to his left coming towards the 400m mark and suddenly found himself a few lengths adrift of the action as Mother Russia stormed to the lead under Christophe Soumillon and made a beeline for the finish. Mother Russia stormed a couple of lengths clear, but the combination of 60 kgs and lack of a recent run took its toll as she began to run out of steam 100m from the line. Now back on an even keel and finding plenty more under pressure, Perana sliced his way past rivals to collar Mother Russia in the closing stages and went on to post a somewhat improbable half-length win over that stable companion of his. Power Park challenged strongly before finishing another half-length further away in third, with Call To Combat three-quarters of a length behind him in fourth after looking to be a very real threat until late in the race.
Zirconeum failed to quicken after appearing to travel well in the race and could only finish 8.5 lengths behind the winner in eleventh place. Whether the 2009 Gr 1 Woolavington 2000 winner and Vodacom Durban July runner-up will ever regain her best form remains to be seen, but Mother Russia (who finished second in that same Woolavington 2000) looked as good as ever. She may have been made a bit too much use of in the circumstances, but it was a bold move by Soumillon to try and finish off the race when he did and connections will have been thrilled with his return to action of a mare with the (almost) unique record of having won a Black Type race in all four of South Africa’s provinces which offer them.
Still, the night belonged to Perana, and both jockey Anthony Delpech and trainer Mike de Kock could barely stop singing his praises afterwards. These heat-of-the-moment remarks always need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but Delpech nevertheless paid the colt a mighty compliment when he said that, “ I have never ridden a three-year-old as good as this.” Bear in mind that the jockey has won the July on a three-year-old more than once. “They went four lengths past him,” added Delpech, who almost seemed incapable of believing that he’d managed to finish up in the winner’s enclosure.
“It was unbelievable,” said De Kock, adding that, “I haven’t got to the bottom of this horse. We could have tried to win a novice or graduation plate with him, but what was the point. We think he’s a Gr 1 horse and I threw him in at the deep end to see what we’ve got.” What they’ve got looks pretty special all things considered, and it would be a classic example of stating the obvious to point out that there should be plenty of improvement yet to come from Perana. He tried his level best to throw this one away, but he’s bound to learn from experience.
Perana was not well treated by the weights in this conditions event and is clearly a good deal better than the 96 merit rating off which he won it. His only previous success had come (albeit by a huge margin) in a particularly weak maiden juvenile plate at Clairwood in June and one could hardly blame the sceptics for doubting that Perana belonged in a race like the Victory Moon, but we are all much wiser after the event – and so too, hopefully, is Perana himself.
Australian-bred Perana has an attractive pedigree and one that would not be out of place in a future stallion. A colt by Rock Of Gibraltar, he is out of the unraced Palace Music mare Scribbling, dam also of Australian Gr 2 winner Prince Of War, later a smart performer in both Singapore in Dubai. Dam also of Listed winner and Gr 2 runner-up Prince Arthur, Scribbling is a half sister to champion SA sprinting mare Tracy’s Element, who in turn is the dam of four times Australian Gr 1 winner Typhoon Tracy. Bought for Aus $200 000 at the 2009 Sydney Easter Yearling Sale, Perana has won twice from four starts for stakes of R253 625
VICTORY MOON S. (SAf-G2)
TURFFONTEIN, South Africa, November 12, $43,110, 3&up, 1,800mT (8.95fT), 1:49.01.
1st—=PERANA (AUS), 114, B. c. 3, Rock of Gibraltar (Ire)—=Scribbling (Aus), by Palace Music. Owners—L. M. Nestadt, A. W. Bott and B. Kantor; Breeder—Caragona Pty. Ltd. (Aus); Trainer—Michael F. de Kock.
2nd—=MOTHER RUSSIA (SAF), 132, B. m. 5, Windrush—=Russian Muse (SAf), by Russian Fox.
3rd—=POWER PARK (SAF), 114, B. g. 5, Camden Park—=Token Power (SAf), by Token of Youth.
Margins: 1/2, 1/2, 3/4.