Gr3 Lebelo Sprint: Bon Voyage

The first Graded event of 2011 produced a humdinger of a finish when Blue Voyager edged out KZN visitor Jinzo by a nostril to win the Lebelo Sprint (handicap) over 1000m on Turffontein’s standside course on Saturday, writes Matthew Lips.

The race lost some of its attraction with the scratching of ante-post favourite Magico, who’d broken the Vaal 1000m course record in November and who has yet to be beaten over the minimum distance.  In his absence it was Blue Voyager who started as the 5/2 favourite in a field of ten, having been beaten less than two lengths into fourth place in the Gr 2 Merchants over 1160m on the same course five weeks earlier.  Intellectual was a well supported 33/10 second favourite to defy 60 kgs top weight, while Polar Moon went off as the 11/2 third choice in his first appearance since joining the Sean Tarry yard after his previous trainer Grant Maroun left the game during the winter.

There was no shortage of early pace on the good-to-soft ground, with Renegade and Battlestar Express showing the way just ahead of Cruso, Blue Voyager, and Courage.  Jinzo and Mary Lou were further back, with Polar Moon bringing up the rear after losing a couple of lengths at the break.  Renegade and Battlestar Express both weakened inside the last 300m, leaving Blue Voyager to strike the front and make the best of his way home, but Jinzo found a gap between rivals and emerged with a big challenge 200m out.  Herman Brown’s visitor gave Blue Voyager’s supporters a real scare, the two fighting it out tooth-and-nail over the final stages, and Anton Marcus had to throw everything at Blue Voyager to get the better of the argument by a nostril.

Jinzo’s stable companion Intellectual was running on to finish 1.20 lengths further away in third, pulling 2.25 lengths clear of fourth placed Mary Lou, but Polar Moon never recovered from his slow start and finished sixth.  This was Polar Moon’s first appearance since June, having been gelded in the interim, and he is better suited to at least another 200m in any case.  Courage would have been facing Magico on 4.5 kgs better terms for a 2.25 lengths beating at the Vaal in November had the latter turned out for the Lebelo, but he faded to finish second last and we can only wonder whether the original favourite would have been up to the task here or whether this would have been a bridge too far.

Four-year-old Blue Voyager was tried over longer distances earlier in his career, but sprinting appears to be very much his forte.  Jinzo did everything except take the prize back to Durban and was a model of consistency throughout 2010, with his one real blip coming when he was beaten more than eight lengths behind Blue Voyager at Clairwood in June.  This time, Blue Voyager certainly knew that Jinzo was there.

Blue Voyager is trained by Charles Laird for Markus and Ingrid Jooste.  A son of Muhtafal, he is the eighth foal and fifth winner of Comedy Star mare Blue Yonder, who won five races over 1400/1600m including a Listed event.  Bred at Summerhill Stud and acquire for R1 million at the 2008 Ready To Run Sale in Gauteng, Blue Voyager has won four of his 13 starts and earned R420 050.

Lebelo Sprint (SAf-G3) (1/1)

Turffontein, South Africa, January 1, R200.000, 1000m, turf, good, 57.04 (CR 54.96).

BLUE VOYAGER (SAF), 58.0, b g 4, Muhtafal – Blue Yonder (SAF) by Comedy Star. Owner Mrs I Jooste and Mr M J Jooste; breeder Summerhill Stud; trainer C S Laird; jockey A Marcus (R125.000)

Jinzo (SAF), 58.0, b g 5, Qui Danzig – Desert Salute (SAF) by Salaadim

Intellectual (SAF), 60.0, b g 7, Spaceship (ARG) – Jump Ahead (SAF) by Sapieha (IRE)

Margins: nose, sh hd, 1¼

Also ran: Mary Lou (SAF) 57.0, Renegade (SAF) 55.0, Polar Moon (SAF) 56.5, Hurricane Force (SAF) 56.5, Cruso (SAF) 57.0, Courage (SAF) 52.0, Battlestar Express (SAF) 58.0

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