Let’s get behind Rocket Man tomorrow! Nakayama Racecourse in Japan might well feel like a million miles from the Vaal Racecourse in South Africa, but the globetrotting black and red Fred Crabbia silks ensured some form of synergy between the two venues on 29 September.
The internationally successful owner enjoyed a low-key double courtesy of Paul Matchett at the Vereeniging track as he watched his brilliant charge Rocket Man preparing for his 18th win at his 21st start.
Rocket Man, trained by 54 year old South African trainer Patrick Shaw, has long come of age and is the most accomplished sprinter in the world today. The son of Viscount has been in Japan for the past two weeks and contests the seventh leg of the Global Sprint Challenge on Sunday 2 October when he runs in the Sprinter’s Stakes.
The current holder of the Singapore Turf Club’s Horse Of The Year title, he was famously beaten a short head by JJ The Jet Plane in the Gr1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint in December 2010 in a slightly bitter but largely sweet result for South African racing fans! Tomorrow there will be no doubt though where our loyalties will lie – even if he also just happens to be an Australian bred.
Rocket Man will be piloted by veteran jockey Felix Coetzee, who has won four of his five starts on him. Coetzee also rode the legendary Silent Witness to win this race in 2005 – the year that Rocket Man was born. Unbeaten in his first seven outings until tasting his first defeat by a neck in his maiden tilt at the Krisflyer International Sprint, the one chink in Rocket Man’s armour could be the right-handed track, the kind of bend to which he has had least exposure in his illustrious career.
The 58 year old Crabbia has been a passionate supporter of horseracing all over the world and his familiar silks are seen in every racing centre in this country, barring the Northern Cape, on a regular basis. His Vaal double on Thursday was the perfect confidence booster on the eve of the big Eastern sprint and both were runaway winners, piloted by Matchett’s senior rider, Marthinus Mienie.
Danny’s Dream was always in the firing line at his fourth start in the Jackpot opener, a Maiden Plate restricted to three year olds over a mile. At the business end, the Australian bred Dehere colt ran right away from the pacemaking The Last Samurai and Top Priority, to win in great fashion. The fancied Mike De Kock runner-up Frontino Gold, another Australian bred believe it or not, was all at sea in midfield under Gavin Lerena and got going too late. He was comprehensively beaten though and the winner looks to have a touch of class about him.
Crabbia’s next winner bucked the favoured inside draw trend of the day, when he skipped clear to win the Graduation Plate over 1200m from his outside draw in a field of eight horses. Hidden Rave had been off for a year prior to his previous start, and the son of Var showed the value of his highest Merit Rating of 102 and his juvenile feature placings, to blow his opposition away. The Paul Peter gelding Crunch Time came for money but after showing terrific early pace, he had no answer to Hidden Rave’s late surge.
Trainer Mike Azzie carried the day’s heaviest weight on his shoulders when he sent out the much talked about Magic Smoke in the MR70 Handicap(Fillies and Mares) over the mile straight course. The Fort Wood filly, bred by Nigel Page, had won her first start by 7,5 lengths over a mile, and after labouring early in this race, she ran on late at the outsider Golden Handshake. Sherman Brown appeared to have pulled a clever ace out of the bag though as the underrated jockey skipped clear of his field on the five year old mare at the 300m marker and had Gavin Lerena panicking on the favourite. Magic Smoke found extra late to assert herself well – in spite of bumping Golden Handshake in the latter stages, and go on and win. The oddest thing – not even a race review was called. But that’s according to Tellytrack…