While there is no containing the excitement and anticipation amongst the die-hard punting fraternity as the J&B Met draws nearer, it has been an inauspicious affair to date and one clouded by more uncertainty than what the occasion deserves. There wasn’t even real clarity over whether the final field was limited to 20 or 16.
That legend of the local turf Stan Elley quipped “what’s that mean?” on Wednesday when told by his 35 year junior co-presenter Vicky M that the theme for the Met in 2015 is Made For The Mix.
For those of us who have memories of Dana Siegenberg hugging his Mom in the parade ring after the Terrence D’Arcy trained Gold Flame had brought the roof down in 1973 at long odds and Bert Hayden’s glorious ride on Politician a few years later, we side by Stan – for us the fashion theme is a non-runner side-show of note.
In fact top owner Hassen Adams, who has more than one Met runner, and wearing his L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate headpiece to the gallops was asked what he would be wearing on Met day and best summed up the over fifty approach.
“It is a secret but I will see on Saturday,” he said smiling.
There are more important issues. Like the horses.
Like Act Of War’s tentative approach to participation in the big race after the champion son of Dynasty had won the Cape Guineas and was then withdrawn for reasons of who knows why from the Politician Stakes.
But that was quickly cleared up when his connections didn’t accept for the Met and went the Investec Derby route on the same day rather.
And Mike De Kock’s Majmu. We have already forgotten about her after she was pulled out and kept in Joburg for the rich Triple Tiara. Probably a prudent decision from the master trainer.
But Legislate. Now that’s another story.
The Snaith family operation have six runners in the race, one of three power yards encompassing 11 of the 15 runner field, and have been first-class with regular updates on their star who fell from grace in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.
A statement issued yesterday said :
Legislate has made considerable improvement and surprised us in his gallop this morning at Kenilworth race course. He looks likely to make the J & B Met but a final decision will be based on his workout this Tuesday and subsequent tests. He will only run if there is no risk on the horse.
So who knows? It must be a 50/50. If he doesn’t run that throws the race wide open on one hand but also makes Futura a near good thing.
It depends how you feel about Futura and his ability to see out a hard run 2000m. And trainer Brett Crawford’s Met BMT that has eluded him for two years. But there is nothing like pressure to bring out the best in a good man.
The gallops really were a non-event from an educational and information viewpoint but served the purpose of a curtain-raiser to the barrier draw ceremony.
Besides the array of technical gremlins which bedevilled the broadcast and hopefully will be sorted out by Met day, the charismatic legend of Andrew Fortune sitting on that expensive couch in an outfit that looked like he came straight from cleaning his garage , made the show worthwhile.
His honest educated quips and no bulldust style makes him worth listening to.
Maybe we will get lucky and they will pay him to hire a suit and turn up to do the previews on Met day? But now we are pushing it.
The absence of a gallops race-caller also did little to add value with Neil Andrews mixing up galloping companions with Met runners. And then nobody told us who the jocks were and what the companions names were most of the time.
Except it was good to see Basil Marcus aboard Louis The King. Workriders don’t come better than that!
As for the gremlins, maybe Kenilworth Racing need to borrow the Greyville Steven Spielberg, Raymond Rogers, for the day.
Aesthetically, everything at the gallops looked nice. The track was in pristine condition and in the morning sun most thoroughbred racehorses look world-beaters to us grandstand trainers.
As an innovation the ordinary public (don’t we just love that label!) were allowed to mix with the rich and famous in the sanctity of their heavenly enclosures – we hear that certain high-flyers were not too thrilled about the presence of the hoi polloi.
Seems some people choose to forget that the punter makes this whole party happen!
The Bass runners sweated up in their gallop, but it was warming up by that time – and at 200 to 1 Paterfamilias won’t have many backers any way, and Helderberg Blue is not exactly Mr Reliable.
It is evident that the gallops are a pain in the rear for most trainers.
And it is not difficult seeing why.
Coming so soon after the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and 8 days prior to the race, the work has largely been done and nobody is stretching anything.
That is also why no effort is made by the operator to time the gallops (yet they do it for the Vodacom Durban July) and the only real condition is: turn up with your Met horse by 7am with the owner’s silks.
And then one or two even failed the latter requirement.
Roll on 31 January.