Saturday’s Gr2 Emerald Cup has generated unprecedented interest and the current favourite Pylon looks to continue the excellent performances of the progeny of Fort Wood on the sand. One man who will be viewing proceedings with plenty of interest is leading broadcaster Jimmy Lithgow, who gave the champion his name.
The Mike Azzie trained Pylon is the highest rated sand performer in the history of South African horseracing, and while lumping the world on his back, must have an excellent chance of adding to his impressive record.
In an exclusive interview this week the eloquent recent Equus Award winner and senior statesman of the South African racing media ranks, said that he had noted with dismay that ‘poor’ Pylon had been lumped with 64,5 kilograms. “ That equates to over 10 stone and the handicappers must think they are handicapping the Grand National,” he laughed.
Jimmy Lithgow added that he had interviewed Pylon’s trainer Mike Azzie for ‘Stable Talk’ a couple of months back and observed that it was the first time that he had seen the horse in the flesh since looking him over at the yearling sales.
“He is a lovely big animal with a great temperament and a really kind eye, who always seems to give of his best, His chances are improved by the fact that some of his opposition, notably Uncle Tommy, have also been allotted big masses,” he suggested.
On the name, Jimmy’s eyes lit up as he explained his thinking:
“I named the horse, incidentally, after his breeder, Gavin Schafer had thrown down the gauntlet and challenged me to improve on a few of the names he had chosen a few years ago, about which I had been a bit vocal on Tellytrack. He is by Fort Wood, a superb sire of sand horses, and I wanted to find a strong name associated with wood. The clue was given by his dam’s breeding, Golden Cell, by Goldkeeper, who is out of the excellent broodmare, Beltel (Bush Telegraph).
So one had to think of telephones and telecommunication, and wooden pylons are generally used to support telephone lines. Or at least they were in my youth! So Pylon he was named, and it was one of eight names I submitted to Gavin that year for his various weanlings, the other one of the two he ultimately chose having been Slumdogmillionaire,” he said.
He has followed the gelding’s career closely and said that Pylon was supposed to have gone into quarantine to go to Dubai, this year, but he felt that the connections may have decided to have a tilt at the Emerald Cup first, and leave Dubai until next year.
“That means he’s been specifically programmed for this race and it would be a wonderful training feat by Mike Azzie were he to win with that burden!” he suggested.
“Of his opposition, Mr Tobin doesn’t seem to be the soundest horse around but he’s run some very decent races on the sand in the past and was only a length behind Pylon, over 1600 metres, the last time they met. He’s now receiving 6kg. from Pylon, so he’s got to be a big runner if he’s back to his best. But he was 18 lengths behind the winner in his next start, so he can’t really be trusted if he has issues,” the seasoned form studier said.
“I reckon the two lighter weighted horses, Here Comes Billy and Tayba (notwithstanding her draw) are dangers, as might be Magic Smoke, who has Strydom aboard. However, she’s only 2kg better off for a seven length beating by Pylon over course and distance, on 5th August and he’s proved her superior on sand every time they’ve met.”
Jimmy said that he would allow a measure of sentiment to rule and tipped the trifecta as follows: 1.Pylon 2. Tayba 3. Here Comes Billy.
Emerald Cup: The Expert View
We approached a few celebrity experts to help us find the winner. Here Comes Billy came out on top.
Andrew Harrison (Gold Circle):
War Horse / Here Comes Billy / Tayba
Nico Kritsiotis (Tellytrack):
Here Comes Billy / Uncle Tommy / War Horse
Vee Moodley (Phumelela):
Here Comes Billy / Pylon / Storm Surf.
Vicky Minnot (Tellytrack):
Storm Surf / Here Comes Billy / Contador
Dave Mollett (Tellytrack):
Tayba / Here Comes Billy / Pylon
Alec Hogg (Journalist):
Tayba / Pylon / War Horse
Pippa Mickleburgh (Avontuur Stud):
Here Comes Billy / Jet Jamboree / Contador
Divan Moller (KZN Owner):
Here Comes Billy/ Contador / Magic Smoke
Rouvaun Smit (Race Caller):
Pylon/ Jet Jamboree / Uncle Tommy
Dave Scott (African Betting Clan):
Pylon / Here Comes Billy/ War Horse
Gareth Pepper (Bloodstock Consultant):
Here Comes Billy/ Tayba / Pylon