Hard Rock evidently caught everyone unawares when he won his Clairwood 1200m debut race at odds of 66/1 in March, but the colt proved that to have been no fluke whatsoever when he returned to the same course on Sunday and retained his spotless record by winning the Godolphin Barb Stakes over 1000m, writes MATTHEW LIPS. This event for two-year-olds had been scheduled for the previous Sunday, but was held over when heavy rain forced that card to be abandoned.
Cape Town raider Soweto Slew brought very good form into the Godolphin Barb, with two wins and two seconds (one of them in Listed company) back home. He was sent off as the 15/10 favourite to make a triumphant KZN debut in a field of seven. Top Of The Chocs found plenty of support to go off as the 33/10 second favourite from an opening call of 9/2, with Hard Rock the 9/2 third choice.
Top Of The Chocs was a narrow leader early on from Bull Ring, with Hard Rock a couple of lengths off the initial speed as Soweto Slew raced in touch with the action over on the stands’ rail. Jungle Ruler and Copperloochee were just in behind the favourite, who gave his backers every reason to feel confident when he came forward to lead as Top Of The Chocs faded coming to the last 200m. Hard Rock was however starting to run on well over on the inside and collared Soweto Slew in virtually the last stride to win by a short head under Anton Marcus. These two completely dominated the race in the end and it was 4.25 lengths further back to third placed Jungle Ruler, who gave the impression of needing a little more than 1000m. Silver Age finished a never dangerous fourth, but Top Of The Chocs fell right away and was beaten more than seven lengths behind Hard Rock in last place.
Hard Rock is trained by Deon Visser, a relative newcomer to the KZN training ranks after a career which inter alia saw him train for a while during the Sudan’s short-lived experiment with horse racing. Visser would not be tempted into confirming whether Hard Rock would contest the Gr 1 Gold Medallion at Scottsville on May 28th, noting that he would wait and see how Hard Rock pulled up after Sunday’s contest, and he would meet Soweto Slew on 2 kgs worse terms if they do meet again in the big Scottsville event. On the plus side, 1200m arguably suits Hard Rock better than the minimum distance and he needed every inch of the 1000m to get his nose in front of a rival who, in winning jockey Anton Marcus’ words, had “got first run on us.”
Hard Rock is a colt by National Emblem. He is the seventh foal and sixth winner produced from Dominion Royale mare Queen Of Rubies, who won three races over 1200/1600m. Bred by Riverton Stud and acquired for R150 000 at the 2010 National Yearling Sales, Hard Rock’s two wins from two outings have earned stakes of R118 664
.Godolphin Barb S. (SAf-G3) (4/24) Clairwood, South Africa, April 24, R134.250, 1000m, turf, good, 57.18 (CR 55.16). HARD ROCK (SAF), 56.0, ch c 2, National Emblem (SAF) – Queen Of Rubies (SAF) by Dominion Royale (GB). Owner Roets Racing; breeder Riverton Stud (SAF); trainer D Visser; jockey A Marcus (R89.014) Soweto Slew (AUS), 58.0, b c 2, Oratorio (IRE) – Rose a Slew by Slew City Slew Jungle Ruler (SAF), 56.0, b c 2, Lecture (USA) – Secret Position (SAF) by Pole Position (GB) Margins: nose, 4¼, 1¼ Also ran: Silver Age (SAF) 56.0, Bull Ring (SAF) 56.0, Copperloochee (SAF) 56.0, Top Of The Chocs (SAF) 56.0