Marsh Thrilled As Former Cape Star Becomes An Aussie

Cape Winter Series star's incredible journey

Pocket Power beats Lion Tamer in the 2007 Met (Pic – Supplied)

That popular Cape Town owner Marsh Shirtliff has experienced the highs and lows of racing would be an understatement.

Best known for racing the mighty Pocket Power, Marsh has also tasted the disappointments and frustrations that are part and parcel of this wonderful sport, none more so than with Katak, who came along almost a decade after the unforgettable and heady journey with Pocket Power.

Marsh holds the Met trophy aloft in the Pocket Power glory days (Pic – Supplied)

Raced in partnership with trainer Piet Steyn, this Ridgemont-bred son of Potala Palace looked a star in the making after stretching his perfect record to five wins from as many starts whilst wrapping up the Cape Winter Series, which incidentally, Pocket Power had used as a launching pad to a brilliant, 20-win career and three Horse of the Year titles.

Unbeaten and successful from 1200 to 2400m, the sky looked the limit for the then three-year-old, but news soon came that he had run his last local race and would continue his career in Singapore with ex-pat Ricardo le Grange, for the Vasco Stable of Marsh and long-time partner Bryn Ressell.

Katak during his Cape racing days (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

What followed was an arduous trek which first took him to the island of Mauritius, then on to France, and finally Singapore, a journey which robbed the colt of his entire four-year-old season. In fact, by the time he stepped onto the racetrack almost 15 months after his final South African start, he was a newly-turned five-year-old.

Understandably ring-rusty, it took Katak two starts to blow away the cobwebs but he showed a glimpse of his true form in his official third start, the Gr1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Kranji, where he was collared late to finish second, a half length behind the winner.

Katak shortly after arriving in Singapore (Pic – STC)

After a creditable fourth in the Gr1 Singapore Gold Cup, Katak regained the winning thread over 1400m and promptly made it a double over a mile. Then misfortune struck.

Following a third win over 2000m, Katak was sent to the sidelines after undergoing surgery to remove bone chips. He only resurfaced seven months later.

Runner-up over 1400m on his return, he next lined up for the Gr1 Raffles Cup over a mile and was not disgraced when a close-up second. Subsequently fourth in the Gr1 Kranji Mile, a sixth place in last year’s renewal of the Gr1 Raffles Cup four months later in September would prove to be Katak’s final start.

katak-breaks-singapore-ice

Katak in action in Singapore (Pic – STC)

A damaged suspensory ligament brought his chequered Singapore innings to an end.

By now, Katak was a seven-year-old gelding and with the impending closure of Singapore racing a fait accompli, his future looked uncertain.

That’s where fate again stepped in, this time in the shape of Piet Steyn’s daughter Margot.

Margot and Katak

Married to Australian vet Daniel Sims and based in Adelaide, she jumped at the chance of taking Katak and so the gelding arrived at his new home in December.

An accomplished horsewoman, Margot told Sporting Post: “I rode Katak as a two-year-old before I moved to Australia and was a bit obsessed with him. I always fantasised that we could be reunited, but it was such a long shot. I don’t know how the stars aligned, but thanks to his owners’ amazing efforts, he was delivered to my door.”

Incidentally, further investigation revealed that the ligament injury was associated with a splint fracture, which required routine surgery.

Power pair!

Margot added: “Katak’s prognosis for recovery is very good, his rehab programme is under way, and he is doing really well. He’s moving to a bigger paddock soon which I’m sure he will be very happy about, as he is bursting out of his skin!”

As for Katak’s future, she said: “I have high hopes of swinging my leg over him for the first time in five years soon. He is a gorgeous type and we will have a crack at showing.”

Remarked Marsh: “Margot is a godsend, it was all so opportune. Katak is happy, she loves him to bits and he’s living the life of Riley. We are hugely grateful and indebted to her and her husband for what they have done for him.”

Seems all’s well that ends well.

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