Cape trainer Mike Stewart is a legend in South African horseracing when it comes to nurturing troubled racehorses to realise their full potential, with the therapeutic aid of the icy Atlantic Ocean.
The cheery Irishman from Noordhoek makes the long trek with his Dynasty gelding Paddy O’Reilly to Fairview in Port Elizabeth on Friday for South Africa’s longest horserace.
There is an Irish proverb that says that an Irishman is never at peace, except when he’s fighting. Stewart’s competitive tenacity has found a very willing partner in the 6yo Paddy O’Reilly, who was a runaway winner of the Listed Glenlair Trophy run over 3200m at Arlington last month.
All Night Long
Stewart drove the 11 hours for that race, but says that he may send Paddy O’Reilly up with a float contingent of other Cape runners on Thursday. “Failing that, I will drive him up,” he said casually. Stewart has no qualms about his charge staying the arduous 3600m of the R130 000 Listed Port Elizabeth Gold Cup.
“It will be no problem. He stays all day,” he said in a response to our question earlier this week. Stewart was unhappy with the handicapper’s penalty that his charge was walloped with after his recent win in the Eastern Cape. His merit rating was raised from a 94 to a 102, and Stewart said that he was considering appealing this penalty.
While Paddy O’Reilly’s short term goal is South Africa’s premier staying event, the Gr1 Gold Cup run on Super Saturday at the end of next month,he is fit and ready for the challenge of our longest race. This is a tactical spectacle to marvel at and the thirteen horse field will provide the thrills.
The longest major flat races in the world are the Melbourne Cup, the Ascot Gold Cup, the Gold Cup at York and the Prix Du Cadran in France. The Gr1 Prix du Cadran and the Gold Cup at York, are run over a distance of approximately 4000m and are likely the longest GrI races.
In terms of the classics, the Gr1 British St. Leger and its French equivalent, the Prix Royal Oak, are run over distances of 2800m to 3000m. In the USA, the longest major stakes race is the San Juan Capistrano Stakes at Santa Anita, which is run on the turf over a distance of 2800m.
So while Paddy O’Reilly is strongly fancied, it is ironically another son of Dynasty who could give the Cape raider most to think about. That is Tara Laing’s smart seven time winner Drill Sargeant, one of the most capable and consistent stayers around.
Drill Sargeant meets Paddy O’Reilly on 1,5kgs better terms after finishing 4,25 lengths in arrears in the Listed Glenlair Trophy. Drill Sargeant landed up wide out in the finish from a wide draw there, while Paddy O’Reilly had the run of the rail thanks to a great ride by apprentice Anthony Andrews. Drill Sargeant is better drawn on Friday and his rider Nooresh Juglall will be keeping a close eye on his adversary.
Another Cape trainer making the trip is Joey Ramsden, who sends a trio from his Milnerton home base. Ramsden has few peers when it comes to getting stayers fit and attack includes two solid pacemakers that will ensure an honest gallop. A Boy Named Sue is the first of these. The son of Caesour has faded at his last two outings, but got the better of River Crossing in the Gr3 Chairman’s Cup in February. The latter (also a son of Caesour) has since won the Gr3 Lonsdale Stirrup Cup and is a Durban July entry. So that looks quite shiny!
British Banker is the second of the potential Ramsden pacesetters. The Windrush gelding is a very average sort but carries a galloping weight under Gareth Wright, and could cause a shock. The best of the Ramsden three could be the Silvano gelding, Crown Of Gold.
The 4yo ran on strongly at his last start when 1,90 lengths behind Barossa Valley in a handicap over 2500m at Kenilworth. Crown Of Gold has not won a race since April 2004, but is Group placed and has an element of class and youth on his side that is lacking amongst a large proportion of this field.
The Mike Bass yard have made a bright start following the opening of their PE satellite yard and the New Zeland bred Montjeu entire Golden Parachute looks capable of running a place here.
He is 2,5kgs better off with Paddy O’Reilly on The Glenlair Trophy run, when he ran a 6,75 length third. He is a fair stayer, but it is a bit worrying that he faded badly to finish over 21 lengths behind Campo De Santana in last year’s PE Gold Cup.
Alan Greeff’s October Club is a 12 time winner and a very capable stayer on his day. He has his fourth tilt at this race after a best effort third behind Thundering Star in 2010. His subsequent two efforts were quite dismal, and do not engender any form of confidence.
Key Castle registered a great Glenlair Trophy and PE Gold Cup double in 2011, where he had October Club and Jervis well beaten. That form falls into the ancient history category, but the 9yo son of Qui Danzig is fit and hails from the Jacques Strydom. The latter knows how to get the longhaulers fit.
Mitch Wiese sends out the two ladies in the race in Inca’s Spirit and the Greys Inn filly, Camden Burrough. Inca’s Spirit only stopped late in this race last year when a seven length third. She has not won in eight months, but has won a total of 8 races from 40 starts and is very capable of upsetting the apple cart.
Camden Burrough tries this trip for the first time and was beaten in the recent Glenlair Trophy. She carries a galloping weight and could have place claims if staying.
Up The Irish
Trainer Mike Stewart gave us a confident thumbs up during his interview earlier this week and Paddy O’Reilly is a confident first choice, despite being hammered by the handicapper.
He is selected to beat Crown Of Gold and the gallant Drill Sargeant. For the quartet players, it may be wise to include past winner Key Castle and Golden Parachute. It should be a terrific spectacle.