Hard Battles And Water Beds

Other than too many of our horses, most things regularly run true to form in horseracing. Like the response to trainer Mike De Kock’s entertaining post-race comments on Sunday from sectors of the industry, that included the silly censorship scissors from our Tellytrack Teddies up North. Oh so predictable. It’s simple. If you want to run with the big dogs in this game, you really have to learn to wee on the big trees.

Author Mark Twain is credited with having said that ‘the public is the only opinion that is worth anything at all.’  He also suggested that ‘ it is not best that we should all think alike; it is a difference of opinion that makes horse races.’  But in horseracing, very few give a continental about the public, and it seems that the moment one has any form of opinion that rocks the cradle or doesn’t go with the general flow of the stream, then you are regarded as a mad maverick or mud-stirrer.

Trainer Mike De Kock’s rather unflattering post-race references to Betting World guest Gary Lentin’s physique, or lack of it, following comments Lentin made about champion Igugu being past her best, were invited directly by Lentin’s brave banter on the Saturday morning show.   Whether Lentin meant what he said or was just trying to stir up a storm is irrelevant really, but hell this is not a  game for cute teddy bears and we have got to learn to take as good as we give. It could be argued that Lentin’s assessment was  impersonal and that De Kock’s reference to unmade water-beds and take-away joints bordered on the personal – but the sledging is surely all in good jest. And host Neil Andrews must be smiling- this is great publicity for his show and it is a feather in his cap that Mike De Kock takes the time to listen to this flock of sitting duck experts.

And Mike will be the first to admit that he is no Charles Atlas or Chippendale –well not anymore any way – and that this sort of playful needle merely adds to the entertainment value of a product that really does border on the monotonous and humdrum on an average day. If real athletes  like Paul Lafferty or  James Goodman had a go at Lentin, then that would have been classed as pure insulting. But De Kock is a man who probably doesn ‘t go to gym too often, carries a bit of condition  and he can laugh at himself too.  He was also generally in top-form in the interview,  having a friendly dig at the ‘mountain-goats’ and ‘chest bangers’ down south in a reference to the Capetonian trainers  who have a champion or three in every category it seems and admittedly live in a bubble for a large part of the year until Champions Season sorts the wheat from the chaff.

Why on earth Tellytrack had to drop the Igugu post-race interview from the recorded loop of the Turffontein replays defies logic and all their pathetic action does is show a lack of direction and a  frail back-bone, as it destroys the colour and entertainment aspect of a sport crying out for support. If they want us to bet and gamble like lunatics then they should be welcoming Showmen and Entertainers like De Kock. This is a sexy no-frills game far removed from the celluloid pomp and splendour of Royal Ascot for most its’ patrons, and just like I have never met anybody who goes to a strip joint because they happen to serve the best steaks in town,  it is high time that the managers who make these unilateral decisions get with the programme and their market.

And if they managed to move so quickly to exercise this draconian  damage control, why could they not sort out the frozen screen that greeted early morning risers on Tuesday, and to which we were exposed for hours on end?  The only people who benefitted from this technical glitch were the sponsors of the Inside Racing show-isn’t this yawn just an extended advertorial?- and  whose logo stared  at me as I waited for the entertaining Winning Ways show to appear.

Even the champion Princess Victoria’s very workmanlike victory in Saturday’s Gr1 Avontuur Estate Fillies Guineas elicited varying interpretation in the aftermath of Avontuur’s brilliant big day. Personally I thought it was a top drawer win – is a Group 1 ever not? – and absolutely impressive off a shrewd slow pace set by the Superman Anton Marcus, who probably flattered Joey Ramsden’s Trinity House in the process.

Not that Glen Kotzen or part-owner Georgina Jaffe will give a hoot, but writing in the Racegoer, the senior statesman of SA Racing journalists Andrew Harrison saw it a little more soberly:  ‘ It looked a little dodgy at one stage, not that you would have been concerned if you were not watching but only listening to the race commentator calling the finish of the Avontuur Estate Cape Fillies Guineas (Grade 1) run at Kenilworth yesterday. Some way out Princess Victoria, the 4-10 favourite, came under pressure and for a few strides there looked to be the distinct possibility of an upset. The commentator, however, was unfazed. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he boomed into the mic. “Here comes the Princess, she’s being let loose. 200 m to go and Princess Victoria has taken the lead from Trinity House…….”  Trinity House, who had led from the gate, was, however, not giving up without a fight and Sean Cormack had to resort to the stick to remind Princess Victoria that things were serious.  In the end it was the expected result but the manner of victory will have cast some doubts on whether taking on the colts in the Cape Premier Yearling Sales Guineas later this month is a good idea. Princess Victoria finally drew off to win comfortably enough but Trinity House gave plenty of cheek.  Trainer Glen Kotzen has been plotting a route to next year’s Vodacom Durban July but judging by yesterday’s performance his star filly may already be stretched over a “mile” and the 10-furlong Investec Cape Derby may be a more realistic immediate target if she is to take on the colts before the winter.  But at the top of the straight things started to get a little sweaty for the favourite’s supporters.  Over two furlongs out Cormack was forced to go for the doctor and the response was not immediate.  Instead, Princess Victoria clawed her way past Trinity House, only really mastering her rival over the last 100m. In the final analysis it maybe that expectations were too high as one can hardly argue against a record of six straight victories that include three Grade 1’s.  But one cannot ignore that yesterday’s performance does raise  some doubts.’

Writing in the same publication, Michael Clower voiced similar sentiments :’  The 1-5 shot finally got her head in front just over 100m out and she beat the gallant Trinity House by a length and a quarter to give Kotzen his 12th Grade 1 win. Thunder Dance stayed on to take third and confirm the Choice Carriers form. But the big difference this time was that the winner did not have a ton in hand.
Is she still the brilliant out-of-this-world superstar everyone thought or just an exceptionally good filly? Her next race should settle the argument one way or the other, and this morning’s decision is all-important.’

Talking about the canned interview and tipping horses in general, Winning Ways show host Paul Lafferty came up with this little gem when he summed up racehorse trainers: ‘Nine times out of ten we are wrong. We don’t really know what’s going on. We hope they are going to win. When they get beat, we look for excuses…’ That is well said.

But The Princess will do her future talking on the racecourse. Gary Lentin will tip another winner one day. Mike De Kock will train another Gr1 winner. Paul Lafferty may tip one of his owners a winner. We all get our turn to be right and to get it wrong. That’s being human.



I personally had to eat humble pie when a horse called Las Ramblas won over 1400m at Scottsville on Sunday. I told anybody who would listen that if she won, I would eat my Sporting Post. Why she attracted my attention was that I disbelievingly saw her name on the list of winners on the 2011 KZN Breeders Awards. The two-time winning daughter of Toreador, whose biggest claim to fame for me is  that she  once ran a ten lengths second to Igugu in a Group Race, won the Outstanding Three Year Old Filly award in KZN.

I still cannot understand how she beat some fair males over 1400m on Sunday and James Goodman’s filly is obviously streets better than my personal opinion of her. KZN Breeders Association Chairman Koos De Klerk’s brilliant chirp that ‘It is easy to beat each other if we are all bloody useless’ was another straight-shooting gem. He could say this as KZN Breeders had scooped seven of the fifteen awards at Equus. My apologies to the Las Ramblas connections.

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