The Kahal filly Festival Of Fire stepped up to her next challenge in grand style when winning the R200 000 Gr3 HSH Princess Charlene Of Monaco Starling Stakes run over 1400m at Turffontein on Saturday. She also provided trainer Mike De Kock with a Group feature double on a tough afternoon for the major yards.
The Avontuur Estate Cape Fillies Guineas received a boost with the news that Festival Of Fire may travel south for the feature on 8 December and the presence of De Kock always adds needle and keen interest.
Festival Of Fire came into this feature fresh off her resounding win a month ago in the Joburg Spring F&M Challenge and went off an extraordinarily generous 5-1.
Punters may have been rattled by the fact that she had to give weight away all round or even the influence of jockey engagements, where Anthony Delpech stuck with the very capable Honorine.
The race was run at a solid clip with Geoff Woodruff’s Leeway leading Honorine around the corner from her good draw.
The two continued to dictate as they turned for home with The Intervention, Blueridge Mountain and Cherry On The Top starting challenges wide out.
Honorine was the first to falter as Leeway stuck grimly to her task down the rail as Derreck David steered Festival Of Fire clear of any traffic wide out. Blueridge Mountain went with her for a few strides, but it was soon clear who was going the better.
In a finish reminiscent of her Spring Challenge win, Festival Of Fire flew from down the outside to win by a half- length in a time of 84,38secs. She gave 5kgs to and held off the extremely promising Blueridge Mountain, who really tried her heart out. The Gary Alexander filly can only improve on this effort.
The pacemaking Leeway stayed on for third on the rail, while Fire Wheel found her feet late to grab fourth cheque.
After being miles back early, the Mike De Kock-trained Tayba caught the eye running on late for fifth and 4,50 lengths behind the winner. She was the subject of some discussion at her last outing down the straight where similar tactics were attempted. Over the extra ground it appeared to work well, and what price her in a Novice over a mile next time?
The disappointments included the SA Fillies Nursery winner King’s Temptress, who never showed and finished sixth and 8 lengths behind.
The Ormonde Ferraris-trained Cherry On The Top may just as well have stayed at home after finishing tenth and 6,50 lengths behind. Her 17 draw was the real killer. She finished just ahead of Sean Tarry’s Amber Orchid, who also blotched her copybook, without apparent excuses.
Honorine hit a brickwall after showing interest for the early stages and her twelfth place and 8,25 lengths finish may have De Kock sending her back down the straight track in future.
A thrilled winning rider Derreck David was obviously elated in the post-race formalities and quipped with a broad smile that both he and Princess Charlene hailed from Benoni.
Festival Of Fire is by Kahal out of the Russian Revival mare, Fuel The Fire. She races for her breeders, Lady C O’Reilly and Mr Chris Saunders.
She has now won 4 of her 5 starts with 1 place for stakes of R311 625.
Racing Association CEO Larry Wainstein, who officiated at the post-race ceremony, hinted that the royal patronage would become a permanent feature of the Starling Stakes.
Wainstein also alluded to the SA – born royal sponsoring a maiden race on the day, which would become South Africa’s richest maiden plate.
Nothing like keeping up with Jones’s – or was that triggered by the lead set by Gold Circle in KwaZulu-Natal? Who cares. Every additional cent into the pockets of owners is to be lauded.
A handsome donation of R100 000 was made by Princess Charlene to the Highveld Horse Care Unit after the race.
Starling S. (SAf-G3) (11/3)
Turffontein, South Africa, November 3, R200.000, 1400m, turf, good, 1.24.38
FESTIVAL OF FIRE (SAF), 58.0, b f 3, Kahal (GB) – Fuel The Fire (SAF) by
Russian Revival (USA). Owner & breeder CJ Saunders & Lady C O’Reilly;
trainer MF de Kock; jockey D David (R125.000)
Blueridge Mountain (ARG), 53.0, ch f 3, Giant’s Causeway (USA) – Skyline
Drive View (USA) by Distant View (USA)
Leeway (SAF), 53.0, b f 3, Captain Al (SAF) – Lereyev (USA) by Lear Fan
Margins: ½, 3¼, ½
Also ran: Fire Wheel (SAF) 53.0, Tayba (SAF) 53.0, Music Affair (SAF) 53.0,
Al Kindi (SAF) 55.0, King’s Temptress (SAF) 54.5, Lady Tatty (SAF) 53.0,
Cherry On The Top (SAF) 57.0, Amber Orchid (AUS) 55.0, Honorine (AUS) 55.0,
Meet Me Halfway (SAF) 53.0, Tomorrow’s Miss (SAF) 53.0, Dalalaat (SAF) 55.0,
The Intervention (SAF) 53.0