It is never ideal having to reschedule a key prep race entailing a surface and venue switch from the Scottsville turf to the Greyville all-weather. But Ashburton-based Duncan Howells made the most of it to produce a dazzling victory for the Antonius Pius filly Neptune’s Rain.
The Highlands bred 3yo marked a first stakes winner for Duncan’s major patron David Maclean when she won the Gr3 Strelitzia Stakes at her third start in April 2017. She went on to run third in the Gr1 Alan Robertson Championship last term and on this performance looks way above average.
“David (Maclean) puts a lot of money into the game and I am so thrilled for him. I have always felt she was a Gr1 filly and the disappointment of not being able to travel to the Cape late last year for the rich sales race in view of the AHS restrictions, may have been a blessing in disguise in hindsight. She has filled out and benefitted from the break. And to win it from where she did on the Greyville polytrack today is the kind of performance that makes jockeys and trainers look good!” said Duncan Howells, adding that the Poinsettia Stakes and SA Fillies Sprint were next on the agenda for the impressive filly.
The feature postponed from Scottsville on Sunday to Greyville midweek saw a field of 12 line up after five withdrawals from the 16 plus reserve carded originally.
With Queen Of Alamo spreading a shoe and having to race unshod in front, the start was further delayed for no apparent reason. Do we ever get any race off on time?
The Louis Goosen trio of Hashtag Strat, Captain’s Girl and Effortless Reward were out early and showed the way, with Neptune’s Rain ridden quietly and ten lengths off the leader.
In the run for home Captain’s Girl hit the front and looked to pinch a winning lead as Neptune’s Rain was switched out from something of a losing looking position by Anton Marcus.
With five lengths to make up inside the final 250m, Marcus found a gap and straightened his mount before riding a beautifully balanced finish to catch the leader and go on to win by a length in a time of 57,5 secs.
The resolute Captain’s Girl stayed on doggedly for second ahead of a flying Miss Varlicious.
That’s an Ashburton 1-2-3 and saddled coincidentally by Duncan Howells, Louis Goosen and Paul Gadsby – the three trainers who attended the Scottsville Tuesday track inspection!
The favourite Jo’s Bond loomed up down the inside but needed the run and faded out to run last and 8,25 lengths off the winner.
The Highlands bred Neptune’s Rain is a daughter of Antonius Pius out of the three time winning Rich Man’s Gold mare, Water Is Gold.
A R425 000 CTS March Yearling Sale purchase, Neptune’s Rain has won 4 races with 6 places from 11 starts and stakes of R539 925.