Trainer Grant Maroun provided 24 year old Jarryd Penny with the first graded race win of his short career when the lightweight booted home the rejuvenated Viking Hero to win the R250 000 Gr3 Tommy Hotspur Handicap at Turffontein on Tuesday evening.
Penny would have grabbed the milestone as a belated gift after enjoying his birthday just days earlier on 4 February. Viking Hero was also his ‘lucky’ 13th winner of the season!
The evening’s events demonstrated the highs and lows of the game, with trainer Sean Tarry and jockey S’manga Khumalo running rampant with 4 and 3 winners respectively, only to suffer the tragedy of losing the Trippi star, Zambezi River.
The inaugural CTS Lanzerac Ready To Run Stakes winner was euthanised after falling in the sixth race after appearing to suffer an injury.
Jockeys S’manga Khumalo and his colleague Matthew Thackeray, who also came down off Majestic Bay, were both badly shaken but seemingly in fair physical order afterwards.
But the night belonged to the good red wine on four legs that is the rare sprinting son of Mullins Bay.
Viking Hero was going nowhere fast earlier in his career, but the commitment of the Grant Maroun team and some natural sounding up have contributed to a sparkling revival that will see him take in the Senor Santa as his next target.
He is a a horse that has to be ridden ‘crook’, and Penny rode a copybook race on Maroun’s instructions – which included a confidence boosting pressure quote of ‘ride him like I told you and you will win’, as he was given a leg up. The Maroun sports psychology worked a charm!
The field was reduced to just nine runners with Mod Barley scratched in the absence of a suitable replacement for the stood-down Khumalo.
After Jade Bay had ripped away at breakneck speed early, Penny allowed Viking Hero to relax and produced him at the right time inside the 250m marker.
The gelding powered home to win by 0,30 lengths in a snappy 56,52 secs,
Viking Hero was unwanted at 20-1 in the betting and his victory contributed to the evening’s lotto-style Pick 6 payout of R247 328.
Mike Azzie’s Splendid Garden came on strongly for second and showed the benefits in his performance profile with his generally improved behaviour.
The favourite Moofeed, who was bidding for the Hotspur double, also ran on a touch late and was a half-length further back in third, with Aurum Pot running fourth.
This was Viking Hero’s second feature win on the trot, after grabbing top honours in the Gr3 Lebelo Sprint three runs back.
He has now won 6 races with 19 places from 38 starts for stakes of R708 350 – that is not bad for a horse who took close on two years to win his second race!
A 6yo gelding in the prime of his career, Viking Hero was bred by Barton Hall Stud and is a son of deceased Summerhill stallion Mullins Bay out of the four-time winning All Fired Up mare, Out Of Norway.
He was purchased for R30 000 by the Tawny Syndicate off the 2011 Emperors Palace National Two Year Sale.
RIP Zambezi River.
Gr3 Tommy Hotspur Handicap (SAf-Gr3)
Turffontein, South Africa, February 9, R250k, 1000m, turf, soft, 56.52
1 – VIKING HERO (SAF), 52.5, ch g 6, Mullins Bay (GB) – Out Of Norway (SAF) by All Fired Up (USA). Owner Miss M Uren & Mr G J Maroun; Breeder Barton Hall Stud; trainer G Maroun; jockey J Penny
2 – Splendid Garden (SAF), 57.5, ch g 4, Black Minnaloushe (USA) – Gardener’s Delight (USA) by Giant’s Causeway (USA)
3 – Moofeed (AUS), 58.5, b h 5, Duke Of Marmalade (IRE) – Dizzy De Lago (AUS) by Encosta De Lago (AUS)
Margins: 0.30, 0.50, 0.25