Blake is turning into a seriously good long-distance runner and the ultra-consistent five-year-old registered his third Stakes win in succession when capturing the J&B Reserve Stayers over 2800m at Kenilworth on Saturday. The gelding had previously won the Listed Woolavington Handicap at Durbanville in October and the Gr3 Cape Summer Stayers Handicap at Kenilworth on Christmas Eve, writes MATTHEW LIPS.
Four withdrawals left 14 to contest the traditional last race on J&B Met day. Formerly a handicap, the Reserve Stayers is now run as a conditions race, with only 2 kgs separating the top and bottom weights, suggesting that there were really only a small handful with a realistic chance of success. Blake was better weighted than most on merit ratings and started as the 4/1 joint favourite with well-weighted Hospitality and with Orchard House, who was well supported to start at half of his 8/1 ante-post price. Born To Be Wild looked to have an uphill task at the weights, but he is still relatively unexposed and he found considerable support to go off as a 6/1 chance.
As always, Hospitality worked his way to an early lead, although he had to come across from a wide draw to do so. He set an ordinary pace from Two Strikes and Born To Be Wild, with Vengence and Mystic Moon next in line. Orchard House tracked this group, with Blake content to wait some three-quarters of the way down the field after also starting from a wide draw. Hospitality tried to skip clear turning for home, but he stopped to nothing coming to the final 300m and the race was up for grabs as Two Strikes and Orchard House both launched their challenges. Born Top Be Wild was also on the retreat, but Blake started to make good progress wide out as Thanks John started to get into the action as well. Orchard House and Two Strikes held the upper hand into the final furlong, but Blake had been delivered with a perfectly timed challenge by birthday boy Karl Neisius, who may be halfway through his 50s (never mind what the profile on his Facebook page says to the contrary…!), but who is still a rider of the highest class with the sort of experience that money simply cannot buy.
Blake asserted himself inside the last 100m to win by three-quarters of a length going away from Two Strikes, with Orchard House having every chance before finishing the same distance further adrift in third. Thanks John finished fourth, another 1.75 lengths away, but Born To Be Wild was found out at this level and could only finish 11th, 8.30 lengths behind the winner. Hospitality was very disappointing and trailed in last of all despite appearing to be weighted to beat Blake on their last few encounters.
Blake was the second Graded race winner on the day sired by the outstanding Fort Wood stallion Dynasty, after the success of Jackson in the Investec Cape Derby. Trained by Dean Kannemeyer, Blake is the tenth foal and fifth known winner of New Zealand-bred Nassipour mare Watercolours, who won four races over 1600/2000m and who is the half sister to the dam of SA champion sprinting filly Laisserfaire. Bred at Rosedene Stud and bought for R130 000 at the 2008 National Yearling Sale, Blake has won eight times from 24 starts for stakes of R691 821 and seems likely to head to KZN this winter with the 3200m Gr1 Gold Cup heading the agenda.
J&B Reserve Stayers (SAf-G2) (1/28)
Kenilworth, South Africa, January 28, R300.000, 2800m, turf, good, 3.01.42 (CR 2.53.10).
BLAKE (SAF), 60.0, b g 5, Dynasty (SAF) – Watercolours (NZ) by Nassipour. Owner D L Brugman, R W Deacon, R Kay and I M Rudden; breeder Pee Bee Stud (SAF); trainer D Kannemeyer; jockey K Neisius (R187.500)
Two Strikes (SAF), 60.0, ch h 6, Strike Smartly (CAN) – Striking Gold (SAF) by Fort Wood
Orchard House (SAF), 58.0, b g 4, Casey Tibbs (IRE) – Fiery Spirit (SAF) by Goldmark (SAF)
Margins: ¾, ¾, 1¾
Also ran: Thanks John (SAF) 59.5, Komatipoort (SAF) 58.0, Posh Boy (SAF) 59.5, Vengence (SAF) 58.0, Cree Lodge (SAF) 59.5, Golden Parachute (NZ) 60.0, Sun City (SAF) 59.5, Born To Be Wild (SAF) 58.0, Mystic Moon (SAF) 58.0, In Writing (ARG) 59.5, Hospitality (SAF) 59.5