J&B Met Review 2005 – Alastor

The story of the 2005 J&B Met is one of contrasts. Take a 6yo gelding who for ages look destined never to advance beyond the B division, a young emerging trainer, and a 53-year-old jockey in the twilight of his career. What it all adds up to is Alastor, who on Saturday was given a gem of a ride by veteran Garth Puller to win the 2000m Kenilworth showpiece for trainer Sean Tarry. With a starting price of 50/1 it may not have been quite the result that most punters either expected or wanted, and you can’t even blame the poor old merit ratings because the Met is not a handicap, but it encapsulated nicely the reason that people race horses. You just never know what is waiting around the next corner. Garth Puller was riding Met winners before one or two of his rival jockeys were probably even born, and before the now not-so-new course was first used for the race in 1978. If memory serves, he won the 1976 race on Gatecrasher. Most recently he was successful in 1994, aboard Pas De Quoi. If you thought that would probably be the end of the line, forget it. After all, Cape Town breeds resilient jockeys. Stanley Amos kept riding until he was in his late 60’s, so the end for G.B.Puller is not necessarily in sight. He is fighting an ever more difficult battle with the scales, an utterly unavoidable side-effect of the aging process, but the possibility that there may yet be more Alastors to come must act as a pretty good incentive. Sean Tarry, on the other hand, is now breaking through into the upper echelon of trainers and stands on the threshold of a splendid career. He is assuredly no stranger to winning decent races, but this was his finest moment to date by far. Between him and Summer Cup winning conditioner Stuart Pettigrew, they have sent a signal to the bigger yards that winning major races is not just the preserve of a select few. Given a chance, others can play the game – and that can only be healthy for the sport. Tyson was a narrow choice of favourite over Winter Solstice, between them the only two horses in the field to have ever won a Gr1 race, but both of the girls, Icy Air and Ilha Da Vitoria, had considerable backing too. So of course did Hundred Acre Wood, with some nibbles at longer odds on Superwood, but Alastor was widely overlooked. The lack of any obvious strong frontrunner always made it likely that this would a Met contested at no great pace, and so it proved. Winter Solstice was taken to the front by Glen Hatt, and did little more than amble along ahead of Rusedski, Tyson, Badger’s Delight, and Alastor. With a rather unseasonal (if mild) tailwind in the home straight, that was no sign of madness. For a long way it looked as if it might produce the desired result for the Queen’s Plate winner. Tyson didn’t really quicken once asked for an effort, Rusedski plugged on gamely until around 200m out but then began to weaken, and not much came from off the pace. The one exception was Icy Air, who made a beeline for the inside fence and loomed up so well coming to the last furlong that she looked as if she might well win. Meantime, Alastor was also storming home between horses, while Winter Solstice found another gear and gave the impression well inside the final 200m that he would come right back and land the spoils. In the final analysis, though, Joey Ramsden’s charge couldn’t quite match the finishing speed of Alastor and Icy Air. The last 75m or so belonged to this pair, but by now the upper hand was clearly with Alastor. Driven out by Puller all the way home, the Gauteng visitor outran his gallant female opponent to win by a neck, with Winter Solstice comfortably third and Tyson 4th. Ilha Da Vitoria and Dunford (who ran an absolute cracker at the weights) did their best work late and were next best, but Hundred Acre Wood never showed. With the exception of Icy Air, none of the first four to finish were further back than fifth at any stage of a race which assuredly wasn’t run to suit backrunners. It was the ideal scenario for Alastor, who has always looked to be at his best over less than 2000m, but who didn’t have his potentially fragile reserves of stamina tested fully. His jockey perfectly read the danger of being caught too far behind in what had to become a sprint up the straight, and made sure he didn’t get out of his ground. So did Piere Strydom on Tyson. This is not the style in which the son of Silvino is usually ridden, and it is certainly not the way he won the Gommagomma Summer Cup, but to have dropped him into the bottom half of the field early could well have proven suicidal. It has to be remembered, when all is said and done, that Tyson had a pretty stiff task under 58kg top weight, and needed to run above his 107 merit rating to have any hope of winning. It may have been pretty much a form run for a horse who is clearly very very good, but on the evidence to date is no Yard-Arm or Dynasty. Hundred Acre Wood, on merit ratings, was weighted to dead-heat with Tyson, and as such also had it to do. Both horses were only half-a-kilo worse off with Alastor than would have applied in a handicap, which isn’t much, but then neither Tyson nor Hundred Acre Wood started at 50/1. There was an imbalance in the market, which has nothing to do with 20/20 hindsight but plenty to do with basic arithmetic. Take out Winter Solstice (who ended up doing the legwork) and this was always potentially going to be one of the most open Mets in recent history. Neither of Alastor’s two owners, Stephen Michael and Ramon Rahme, was on course, which to them will doubtless be the only downside to the whole experience, but an emotional Sean Tarry most certainly was. “He travelled badly coming here for the Queen’s Plate, but still finished 4th behind Winter Solstice” the successful trainer remarked afterwards, adding that he believed his horse had a realistic chance despite his lowly position in the market. Needless to say, he also heaped praise on Garth Puller, and deservedly so. The elder statesmen of SA jockeys read the race like a book, and did everything exactly right. Alastor seems to love racing at the coast. His Gauteng form is pretty decent, but he first emerged as something more than a somewhat run-of-the-mill handicapper when he won the Gr3 Cup Trial and finished second in the Gr1 Champions Cup at Clairwood last winter. As a horse who was on the fringes of something special, he did in a way fit the profile of so many previous Met winners. The weights of this conditions race tend to favour horses with one big win in them, who haven’t achieved it yet, and finishing second in a Gr1 like the Champions Cup kind of put Alastor in that bracket. Now, that is 20/20 hindsight at its glorious best! The Met winner is a son of Roberto stallion Al Mufti, who many moons ago ditched the reputation he acquired at the outset of his stud career of being a much better sire of fillies. The likes of The Sheik, Al Nitak, Captain Al and one Victory Moon soon had that preconceived notion stood on its head! Alastor is the eighth foal and fifth winner of Mecca Road mare Damascus Road, who won eight races up to 1400m including the Listed (now Gr3) Tibouchina Stakes. Bred at Dr Marianne Thomson’s very successful Ambiance Stud and bought for R80.000 at the 2000 National Yearling Sale, Alastor has won nine of his 49 races and earned R1.609.840.   33/1 outsider Alastor caused a major upset in the J&B Met (SAf-G1) (R1.5 million) over 2000m at Kenilworth. Without a willing pace setter, it was left to fancied Winter Solstice to make his own pace, which he did at a leisurely gallop, with favourite Tyson close on his heels. The race developed in an extended sprint down the 600m home stretch, which gave the horses racing from off the pace little chance. Alastor and the filly Icy Air fought out a desperate finish, half a length separating the pair. Winter Solstice hung on for third, but Tyson couldn’t quicken and finished a disappointing 5th, a further three lengths back. Alastor was ridden by veteran jockey Garth Puller for trainer Sean Tarry, racing in the colours of SPM Michael and RA Rahme. The winner completed the 2000m on a rain soaked turf track in 2.05.97, and brought his career earnings to R1.6m from 9 wins and 26 places in 49 starts. Bred by Dr M Thomson, Alastor is the only stakes performer from six winners for his G2/G3 placed stakes winning dam Damascus Road (Mecca Road), who won eight races from 5 to 7 furlongs. Alastor was sired by former South African champion sire Al Mufti (Roberto), who has two G1 winning sons at stud in South Africa and stands at Rose and Ashley Parker’s Ascot Stud in the Eastern Cape. He also is the sire of 2004 Dubai World Cup third Victory Moon, a multiple G1 winner who takes up stud duties in SA later this year.   Gr1 J&B Met Kenilworth, SA, January 29, R1.5 million, 2000m, turf, soft, 2.05.97 (CR 2.01.00). ALASTOR (SAf), 55.0, b g 6, Al Mufti – Damascus Road (SAf) by Mecca Road. Owner S Michael and R Rahme; breeder Dr M Thomson (SAf); trainer SG Tarry; jockey G Puller (937,500) Icy Air (SAf), 53.0, b m 5, Jallad – Nordic Air (SAf) by Northern Guest. Owner Lammerskraal; breeder Summerhill; trainer Kannemeyer D; jockey Odendaal M (300,000) Winter Solstice (SAf), 54.5, b g 4, Western Winter – French Muse (SAf) by Melun (FR). Owner Mrs L E Ramsden; breeder Normandy Stud; trainer Ramsden J; jockey Hatt G (150,000) Margins: 1/2, 1/2, 2 1/4, 3/4 Also ran: Tyson (SAf) 58.0 (75,000), Ilha Da Vitoria (BRZ) 54.5 (37,500), Rusedski (ZIM) 54.5, Dunford (SAf) 54.5, Sports Warrior (SAf) 54.5, Badger’s Delight (SAf) 54.5, Invincible (SAf) 54.5, Hundred Acre Wood (SAf) 56.0, Superwood (SAf) 55.0, Tamarino Bay (SAf) 55.0, His Lordship (SAf) 56.0, Set To Music (SAf) 54.5, All Three A King (SAf) 55.0

Have Your Say - *Please Use Your Name & Surname

Comments Policy
The Sporting Post encourages readers to comment in the spirit of enlightening the topic being discussed, to add opinions or correct errors. All posts are accepted on the condition that the Sporting Post can at any time alter, correct or remove comments, either partially or entirely.

All posters are required to post under their actual name and surname – no anonymous posts or use of pseudonyms will be accepted. You can adjust your display name on your account page or to send corrections privately to the EditorThe Sporting Post will not publish comments submitted anonymously or under pseudonyms.

Please note that the views that are published are not necessarily those of the Sporting Post.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



Popular Posts