The KZN Breeders Million Mile proved a terrific success with Alec Laird producing the diamond in the rough with the Mullins Bay gelding Gitiano storming clear to win under Stuart Randolph.
The innovative raceday was a major success on all fronts but was rocked by a ripple of controversy when it was moved from Greyville to Clairwood by Gold Circle.
This move enlisted an angry response from SA champion trainer Mike de Kock who said on Sunday morning that the change of venue would affect the results anticipated, had the meet been staged at Greyville.
“The meeting should never have been scheduled for Greyville a week before the July in the first place. We were informed of the move via sms after declaration stage. Initially we left out runners that would have been suited to Clairwood and accepted with those more suited to Greyville, like Festival Of Fire for example. Naturally the draw bias at Greyville won’t come into play at all now.”
De Kock’s top filly, the recent KRA Fillies Guineas winner Festival Of Fire ran accordingly.
On a brighter note, Alec Laird’s smart 3yo Gitiano underlined his good earlier performances in the Gauteng feature season, when he stormed up late to run on best and win by 0,75 lengths in a time of 97,75 secs.
While King Neptune had his broken bridle replaced at the start, the race was uneventful with the field following the same route as the other races around the turn by steering off the unfavourable inside rail going.
Distinguished broke smartly and led for much of the race and was tracked by Love Struck and King Neptune, ahead of Festival Of Fire and King Of Torts.
Gitiano was well back early.
Into the straight they came towards the outside rail as King Neptune moved up to challenge Distinguished, with Love Struck appearing to kick and then coming under pressure.
Stuart Randolph produced Gitiano at the 300m and the chestnut ran on best at 9 to 1 to win from a flying Corredor, while the longshot Coy Boy powered into third place.
Corredor looks like a very promising 4yo in the making and Garth Puller continues to turn heads as a trainer to watch.
The third placed Coy Boy is a son of Bezrin who is trained by Des Egdes and runs off an 81 merit rating!
The favourite Festival Of Fire had no kick late and ran ninth and 4,50 lengths behind. She confirmed her trainer’s opinion of the move of the meetings at such a late stage, with the consequential impact on racing style and suitability.
The July runner Love Struck appeared to have every chance but faded out late to finish eleventh and 4,80 lengths behind.
The gelding has a mountain to climb before Saturday and is likely to drift out to any three figure price. While hindsight makes experts of all of us, the experiment of having an outing just six days prior to his big engagement must be considered to have been an abject failure.
On the flipside, should he win the July, the comeback will likely be hailed as one of the great training feats of the modern era!
Such is this tough old game. Zero or hero and nothing in between.
While Summerhill Stud sent out eight of the fifteen runners in the day’s topliner, their eloquent supremo Mick Goss conceded that they felt that they had all avenues covered but quipped sportingly afterwards that the winner was off the award winning farm, but ‘did not have the brackets after his name’.
The winner was bred by the original owner of the legendary Pierre Jourdan, Emilio Baseiro, in whose familiar lilac and white silks he races.
A rising star of the SA stallion ranks, Mullins Bay is a son of Machiavellian and stands at Summerhill for what seems like an inordinately well priced R15 000.
He was a 525 000 guineas yearling and won three times in the UK and UAE from 1800 to 2000m. He was rated 121 by Timeform at 3.
Gitiano is out of the one time winning Jet Master mare Poppy Elizabeth.
He was bred by Mr Baisero via Valjub CC.
Gitiano has now won 4 races with 4 places from 13 starts.
He took his stake earnings to R1 031 750.
Well done to KZN Breeders on a top class initiative!