No hassle for Mr Cassel!

Turffontein 30 July

The Greek Tycoon. Lucky Houdalakis had a great double on the day.

Pure perserverance and patience. That just about sums up  model owner and racing enthusiast Sydney Cassel. His well-bred four year old gelding Festival Spirit won the MR 78 Handicap over 1600m at Turffontein on 30 July in great style under Donovan Mansour, and while only a minor race, it was some reward for an owner who has stuck to his guns.

Trainer Lucky Houdalakis, who trains Festival Spirit,  has celebrated close to forty winners this season and has been fortunate to attract some good owners in the process of building his business. His career highlight has obviously been his association with the international Group winning sprinter JJ The Jet Plane, but beyond those heady heights, he has shown that he has the ability to produce the winners with a couple of throw-outs and mostly average type stock.

Cassel’s various combinations of blue and gold silks have been a familiar site on KZN racecourses for about seven years now. The Delance Cosmetics boss has invested ambitiously in horseracing, travelling to Australia to buy good quality stock , and most of his horses commenced their racing careers at Michael Roberts’ Karkloof training establishment. Once found to be in their place they have tried their luck in lesser centres and on different surfaces. He is a ‘Lucky’ Houdalakis man these days and appears to have found a change of fortune in the Greek camp,  where his horses are starting to pay their way.

Spirited. Festival Spirit seen winning his maiden at Scottsville.

Festival Spirit was winning only his second race today and the Maine Chance-bred son of National Emblem was no cheapie as he went through the ring at the 2007 National Sale as a smashing looking yearling, eventually fetching R900 000. He is a half-brother to the brilliant Fearless and his dam Festive Forever won the 1996 Gold Cup under Felix Coetzee. There is thus little wrong on paper with the logic that went behind the decision to go to almost a bar to acquire him. He was highly rated in his early days by his trainer Muis Roberts and evidence of the esteem in which he was held is that he contested the 2009 Gr1 Golden Horseshoe as a maiden. While he is most unlikely to ever come anywhere near to recouping his purchase price,  the pleasure of seeing him win must have meant a lot to his loyal owner. He could certainly win a few more now that he has regained his confidence.

Houdalakis and Donovan Mansour spoilt the party for Anton Marcus in the final race of the 2010/11 Gauteng Season, when the Casey Tibbs filly Sabrina’s Baby produced an electrifying burst to catch the fancied Chilli Baby and Marcus in the final strides. Marcus had looked all over a winner as he drove the daughter of Mogok through on the rail, but Mansour had other ideas. This was the second leg of a double for the trainer-jockey combination after Festival Spirit’s win in the sixth race.

The Marcus and Delpech duel for the jockey title has fizzled out somewhat and Delpech was stood down after the seventh race after registering one winner. He rode a powerful race on Beau Bois in the third race, to get the better of Marcus on the favourite Havana Beat. Delpech then landed up giving up a winning ride as Gunter Wrogemann drove the grey Modern Day gelding Let The River Run through the middle to win the eighth race with authority. Marcus maintained his leading margin at nine wins and we go into the Gold Cup Super Sunday meeting with little prospect of any excitement surrounding this much-hyped duel. A great pity indeed, and Marcus is certainly a worthy champion.

All systems go! The Super Sunday meeting is definitely on.

The good news from Greyville is that sunny skies and an effective drainage system mean that the Gr1 Canon Gold Cup will go ahead as planned on Sunday 31 July. The relentless rains of the past few days forced the operators to switch the Turffontein and Greyville meetings around. The penetrometer reading at Greyville was 34 on Friday evening and this has dropped to 27 on Saturday afternoon. The going should start out as officially soft on Sunday  but there is every likelihood that this will be changed to good-to-soft as the afternoon progresses. There are still puddles of water on the Royal Durban Golf Course on the inside of the Greyville track, but this is ‘no reflection of the state of the track’, according to Gold Circle Chief Operating Officer, Graeme Hawkins. The twelve race programme kicks off at 12h30 and has a late finish for an unscheduled Sunday evening. The rain gods may have done racing a great favour though as this is the right way to commemorate the end of an interesting season. The weather will have had punters doing their homework and looking for the mudlarks and lurkers. The Carl Burger trained Grey Cossack was withdrawn yesterday and this leaves nineteen horses to contest the 3200m feature event. It  is a stamina sapping race on a good day, and the going certainly adds to the poser facing punters.

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