It was widely anticipated that a filly would win the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run Cup at Turffontein on Saturday, and one promptly did, but it wasn’t the one that almost everybody was expecting. This highly restricted sales race over 1400m on the standside course went the way of 22/1 outsider Hollywoodboulevard, who capsized the red-hot favourite Igugu to finally confirm the great promise she had shown when scoring by seven lengths on her debut in April, writes Matthew Lips.
This highly valuable three-year-olds race is restricted to graduates of the Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run Sale held on the corresponding weekend a year earlier and Igugu was all the rage coming into the contest as the winner of all three of her previous starts, including a Gr 3 against older females four weeks earlier. Al’s Mark was the one that Anton Marcus chose to ride of the three Charles Laird-trained entries and went off as the 8/1 second favourite despite coming into the race as a maiden after two starts. The rest attracted no discernable interest from punters whatsoever, but Igugu’s task appeared to be made even easier when her consistent stable companion Checcetti was scratched after escaping from the start and bolting the course riderless.
Al’s Mark hopped out smartly but soon settled into second place as KZN visitor Honolulu set off to make the running at a solid tempo. Umfutho and Running Rogue were handy in the early stages, with both Hollywoodboulevard and Igugu waited with in the pack. Honolulu began to weaken coming past the 400m, where Al’s Mark looked briefly threatening before being swept aside by stable companion Hollywoodboulevard. Igugu was on the chase as well, but Hollywoodboulevard had produced a telling turn of foot at just the right time and had the favourite’s measure throughout the last 200m, running on well all the way to the line under Willie Figueroa to win by a length from the staying-on favourite. Al’s Mark eventually finished four lengths further away in third, and 1.25 lengths in front of Oh Driscoll, which made it a 1-2-4 finish for horses that were imported from Australia before being resold at the Ready To Run Sale.
Igugu shaped as if a longer distance will suit her, which is hardly surprising for a daughter of Galileo, and to be fair Hollywoodboulevard’s three unplaced efforts from five previous starts all came at Gr 1 or Gr 2 level. The form of such restricted races usually needs taking with a grain of salt, even if 2009 winner Pierre Jourdan and 2007 runner-up Imbongi in particular proved to be genuinely high class performers, but Igugu has every chance of yet playing a role in the big three-year-old fillies’ races later in the season.
So perhaps does Hollywoodboulevard, who is arguably less certain than the beaten favourite to be suited by a step up to at least 1600m but who won this race fair-and-square. The Charles Laird-trained winner twice got to within five lengths of subsequently exported winners in Gr 1 races last term and had to have about as much chance as anything of lifting this prize if Igugu failed. A daughter of very successful sire Street Cry (whose daughter Zenyatta came within inches of a 20th win from 20 starts in the Breeders’ Cup Classic several hours later), Hollywoodboulevard is the fourth foal of the unraced Filante mare Soneria. The Australian import was acquired for R900 000 at the Ready To Run Sale and has won two races from six starts, earning stakes of R897 800 for leading owners Ingrid and Markus Jooste.