Flying First Class

Cathay Pacific HK Sprint: J J The Jet Plane Lands The Honours

JJ earned the first stake of 634.000 pounds in under 70 seconds

Britannia may have ruled the waves once upon a time, but her erstwhile colony of Hong Kong was dominated by South Africa for at least a few minutes on Sunday afternoon.  No doubt inspired by the masters who have shown that boundaries are there to be pushed, Lucky Houdalakis and his team took a step into the brave new world and where rewarded in heart-stopping fashion when J J The Jet Plane claimed the valuable Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint over 1200m at Sha Tin, writes Matthew Lips.

It seemed that J J had barely been home in South Africa for five minutes before he returned to his globetrotting ways.  With a name like that he may have been destined to spend half his life at thirty four thousand feet, visiting far flung places, and it seems equally appropriate that he would achieve his biggest success in a race sponsored by an airline.

J J The Jet Plane’s previous international exploits may have been considered by some to have been disappointing, although there really isn’t all that much wrong with being placed in an English Gr 1 race like the July Cup.  Fortunately for all South African fans, his connections decided to give the world stage another try.  In J J The Jet Plane they have the only horse who has returned to South Africa from an overseas campaign and won at Gr 1 level.   Hugely impressive repeat wins  in the Golden Horse Casino Sprint and Mercury Sprint – races J J had won before he left out shores for the first time in 2008 – no doubt inspired Houdalakis and his owners to look further afield.  This time, though, Houdalakis didn’t let his pride and joy out of his sight and oversaw the Hong Kong raid himself.  This by no means casts any aspersions on the training skills of those who have looked after J J The Jet Plane abroad in the past, but he is Lucky’s boy and that’s that.

Then there is Piere Strydom, who has never been beaten astride J J and who now has a perfect eight-from-eight score on the six-year-old son of Jet Master.  And what a ride he gave J J in Hong Kong, sitting up fourth and angling out at the top of the straight to ensure nothing could get in his way, before grinding down the South African-owned, trained and ridden Rocket Man to win by a short head.  One always had the feeling inside the last 100 metres that J J would probably get there, but in the end it proved to be heart stopping stuff as Felix Coetzee drove Rocket Man for all he was worth as the Fred Crabbia-owned, Pat Shaw-trained runner-up came within millimetres of his first international Gr 1 success.  Yes, this was truly a result for South Africans to savour.

It is hard to imagine J J The Jet Plane as the youngster with crooked legs (his limbs have been likened to Charlie Chaplin’s) who changed hands for what now seems an almost pitiful R70 000 at the 2006 National Year Old Sale.  His owners wanted a Jet Master, here was a Jet Master going cheaply, and they bought him.  Easy as that.  No hours of pre-sale inspection or discussion, just spur-of-the-moment stuff, of the sort that changes lives.

Everisto Nyambo & J J: all smiles

Bred by Patricia Devine out of her four-times winning Northern Guest mare Majestic Guest, J J The Jet Plane has essentially an all South African pedigree to go with his all South African connections.  We cannot wait for the next instalment in the J J saga.  Dubai, perhaps?  Another tilt at a European Gr 1, maybe?  We shall see, but for now J J The Jet Plane has (all too briefly, one fears) united the often-divided and almost perennially bickering South African racing community much like people more than forty years ago stopped shooting each other for long enough to watch the first moon landing.  The euphoria won’t last – until the next time J J makes us proud, that is.

SHA TIN, Hong Kong, December 12, US$1,760,855, 3&up, 1200mT (5.97fT), good, 1:08.84.
1st—=J J THE JET PLANE (SAF), 126, B. g. 6, =Jet Master (SAf)—=Majestic Guest (SAf), by Northern Guest. Owners—H. S. N. du Preez, C. F. Strydom, L. Houdalakis, Lucky, and C. D. Boyens; Breeder—Mrs. P. J. Devine (SAf); Trainer—L. Houdalakis.  US$1,003,688.
2nd—=ROCKET MAN (AUS), 126, B. g. 5, =Viscount (Aus)—=Macrosa (NZ), by =McGinty (NZ). US$387,388.
3rd—=SACRED KINGDOM (AUS), 126, B. g. 7, =Encosta de Lago (Aus)—=Courtroom Sweetie (Aus), by =Zeditave (Aus). US$176,085.
Margins: nose, 3/4, 3/4.
Also ran: =Let Me Fight (Ire) 126 ($100,620), =Ortensia (Aus) 122 ($57,857), =Kingsgate Native (Ire) 126 ($35,217), =Lucky Nine (Ire) 126, =Little Bridge (NZ) 126, =Dim Sum (GB) 126, =Green Birdie (NZ) 126, =Joy And Fun (NZ) 126, =Cerise Cherry (SAf) 126, =One World (Aus) 126, =Ultra Fantasy (Aus) 126.

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