Justin Snaith’s horses have all pulled up well from Vodacom Durban July day and he said the unbeaten Gr 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe winner Zodiac Ruler would be considered for the Gr 1 Premier’s Champions Challenge on eLan Gold Cup day.
He also spoke of his empathy for distraught owner Adriaan van Vuuren, having been in the same boat before, while at the same time coming out in defence of Gold Circle and KZN racetracks.
Snaith said the only reason Zodiac Ruler had ended up being at his Summerveld SA Champions Season yard was because the colt had been at his satellite yard in Johannesburg at the time of the latter’s closure.
The two-year-old had not been allowed to return to Cape Town without going through quarantine. Snaith said his Johannesburg satellite yard had been closed because it had not been financially viable. He added it had only been opened in the first place because he had been led to believe restricted races would be included in the National Trainer’s Championships, but the NHRA had later changed their minds.
Snaith said about the classy Zodiac Ruler, “I had never thought much of him, because we don’t push our babies. We have done very little with him.”
On debut over 1400m on the Greyville poly Zodiac Ruler was allowed to go off at odds of 14/1. Yet, despite losing four lengths at the start, he had still managed to get up to win under apprentice Lyle Hewitson.
On Saturday, just two-and-a-half weeks after that debut and now ridden by Richard Fourie, he was slow away by two lengths in the 1400m turf contest and was green early on the turn before settling beautifully on the rail behind a fast pace.
Class usually comes through in a true run race and so it proved. He was last at the 400m mark, but then moved through effortlessly to put himself in contention. He responded well to the whip from the 250m mark and won with what looked to be plenty in hand by 1,5 lengths, converting odds of 8/1.
The time of 82,23 seconds was only just outside the class record.
Zodiac Ruler is one of a number of successful horses Paul Lafferty has bought in Australia during his time as South African ambassador to the Magic Millions Sales company. The Summerveld trainer said he had always believed Zodiac Ruler’s sire Zoffany would make it. He was proven correct immediately as the son of Dansili was the European Champion first crop sire in Europe in 2015. Zoffany won a Gr 1 over six furlongs in Ireland, but his biggest claim to fame was finishing just three-quarters of a length runner-up to the mighty Frankel in the Gr 1 St. James Palace Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot.
Prolific owner Fred Crabbia spotted Zodiac Ruler on Lafferty’s website, liked the look of both him and the pedigree and duly bought him. He was spelled by Jane Thomas at Far End Pre-training in Mooi River and she described him as being “magic”.
Crabbia then put him through the CTS Lanzerac Ready To Run Sale and had to go to R450,000 to buy him back, despite Thomas having not gone anything other than slowly with him either at home or at the Ready To Run breeze ups due to him still being too “big and dumb”.
Snaith continued, “The Greyville track doesn’t look good, but all of our horses have pulled up well. Our horses have in fact had more injuries in other centres than in KZN this season and I have the statistics to prove it.”
He added, “It is not easy these days and I think Graeme Hawkins and Gill Simpkins and others at Gold Circle did a fine job in making the July a success and the Tote turnovers were up.”
Snaith said the field and draw for the Premier’s Champions Challenge would be “looked at”, before a decision to run Zodiac Ruler was made.
He said of his July runners, “The main thing is they all came back safely.”
He had few excuses, but said Black Arthur had unfortunately been carried outward at the top of the straight and had thus ended up on the outside rail, where they had not wanted him to be.
The colt had then been conscious of the crowd, so was reluctant to take the gap.
Jockey Douglas Whyte believed he could have otherwise possibly finished third.
Richard Fourie lamented not being able to have a horse to offer cover for his mount It’s My Turn, who had to jump from a tricky draw of 12. He said his reasons were more due to “peace of mind” than anything else as the horse had settled nicely throughout. It’s My Turn sat in third on the quarters of Ten Gun Salute. Fourie pointed out the winner had sat behind him, so he believed he had been in the right place. The Crabbia-owned horse stayed on well for fourth. Fourie concluded by saying the Dynasty colt might have even won had he been “more forward (mature).”
Anthony Delpech said yesterday Bela-Bela had lost her position when bumped around early and felt she might otherwise have finished in the top four.
Snaith said none of his July runners were likely to appear again this season.
Snaith said about Triple Crown-winning owner Adriaan van Vuuren’s shock statement he would be pulling out of horseracing, “He is talking from his heart, he loves his horses and I know what it is like to have a horse injured, we had to endure this anxiety with Legislate two years ago. He (Van Vuuren) doesn’t deserve to be taken to pieces like this in the media and it is due to people like him that so many are able to be employed in the industry.”