Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Gr1 Cape Premier Yearling Sales Cape Guineas - Variety Club

Variety Club

Eagerly awaited it was, and with good reason. The inaugural running of the Cape Premier Yearling Sales Guineas under its current banner may not quite have turned out as widely expected, with the anticipated close-run affair between several proven types and a couple of unexposed up-and-coming sorts becoming a one-horse race as Variety Club took yet another leap forward and gave his dozen opponents a memorable galloping lesson in the Kenilworth sunshine, writes MATTHEW LIPS.

Broken hearts and dented reputations littered the countryside as Variety Club took the first major colts’ classic of the season by the scruff of the neck under a faultless ride from Anton Marcus, who frankly may have ridden most of his rivals to sleep in a race which was something of a master stroke for trainer Joey Ramsden.

The much anticipated contest over the Kenilworth summer course 1600m saw unbeaten Divine Jet go off as the 28/10 favourite to maintain the splendid record of the Kannemeyer stable in the Guineas. Divine Jet was stepping into any kind of Stakes company for the first time and he’d never raced beyond 1400m, but he has been a “talking horse” from long before he ever saw a racecourse and his three wins from three starts in low-key races going into the Guineas had been achieved in eye-catching style. Cape Fillies Guineas winner Princess Victoria was the 33/10 second favourite ahead of Variety Club (9/2) and Gimmethegreenlight (5/1), while impressive Dingaans winner Silver Flyer went off at 5/1 as well.

Variety Club was quickly away and led briefly before his 150/1 stable companion The Balladeer adopted what could easily have been anticipated to be his role as pacemaker and went on to cut out the running. It was however a far from spectacular pace that The Balladeer set, and everything was working out very nicely for Variety Club as he tracked his fellow Ramsden trainee in second. Liancourt Rock and Princess Victoria were next in line ahead of Silver Haven and Blaze Of Fire, with Silver Flyer and Gimmethegreenlight held up well off the pace. Depardieu was also well down the field after being a little slow out of the gates.

The Balladeer continued to set a reasonable pace as far as the straight, where he soon began to weaken as Variety Club and Princess Victoria came forward to dispute matters while Liancourt Rock was briefly still right in the mix as well. Princess Victoria was travelling at least as well as anything else halfway down the straight, but Variety Club was starting to really motor and soon put the Guineas to bed. Princess Victoria appeared to start running low on gas entering the last 200m, but Variety Club was well and truly on his way by then, opening up a sizeable lead and galloping on strongly under Marcus to win by an impressive 3.25 lengths.

Silver Flyer came out of the pack to finish second, running on nicely without remotely threatening the winner. He tends to race from well off the pace and it is no fault of his jockey, but he was left with a virtually impossible task as long as Variety Club didn’t fell into the proverbial hole. Princess Victoria finished one length further away in third and probably saw out the mile well enough, but this may be the limit of her stamina. She gave it her best shot and absolutely no excuses can be forthcoming on her behalf, but her bid to become only the second horse after Star Effort to complete the Cape Fillies Guineas/Guineas double came up short.

Gimmethegreenlight had run Variety Club to a head in the Selangor Cup over 1600m on the Kenilworth “old” course three weeks earlier, but this time he could only stay on and finish another 1.5 lengths behind Princess Victoria in fourth. He was also caught too far off the muddling pace in a race which was not run to suit the back-runners. Divine Jet simply never showed before being beaten a total of 6.45 lengths into seventh place. He was drawn the widest of all and also found himself giving away a great deal of start, so he is entitled to still prove better than this effort.

Sectional timing would go a long way towards putting this result into its proper context, but we don’t have the luxury. It seemed to the naked eye that Variety Club tracked The Balladeer in a race that proceeded at a slow tempo early on and gradually picked up around the turn, allowing the eventual winner to “slingshot” away from those rivals who had been racing in the second half of the field. Certainly, Variety Club ran above his earlier form, coming here rated 110 by the handicappers but running to a mark of somewhere around 116 or 117 if Silver Flyer (who was also rated 110) is used as a line horse. It may of course simply be that the Guineas winner is still improving, as a three-year-old is entitled to do, and if the Guineas was not in any way a false-run affair then we surely witnessed the arrival on the scene of a seriously good miler.

Indeed, after this display one would itch to see Variety Club take on older milers in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate next month, rather than have his stamina tested by the 2000m of the Investec Cape Derby later in January. When asked whether Variety Club would take his chance in the Derby, owner’s representative Derek Brugman replied that he would have to discuss that with the colt’s trainer but expressed reservations about Variety Club staying 2000m. The WFA allowance which Variety Club would enjoy in the Queen’s Plate arguably makes Cape Town’s elite 1600m event for horses of all ages a juicier target, even if three-year-olds are a fairly rare sight in the Queen’s Plate.

Whatever upcoming plans for Variety Club might be, it is hard to deny that the chestnut is the best three-year-old in South Africa at present. He may have had the Guineas run to suit him after The Balladeer taught us that there is more to the art of pacemaking than taking off at a million miles an hour, but Variety Club won the Guineas in style and thumped horses representing form from every province in so doing.

Variety Club is a colt by Var and is the ninth foal and seventh winner of Secret Prospector mare La Massine, who won one race over 1200m. Variety Club’s granddam also posted her sole career success over 1200m and close up it is not immediately obvious in his pedigree where the Guineas winner gets his ability to stay at least 1600m, but his third dam Novenna did win the SA Oaks. Bred by Anton Shepherd at Beaumont Stud, Variety Club was bought for R425 000 at the now discontinued Vintage Yearling Sale in 2010. That sale was run under the auspices of Equimark, an organisation which closed its doors in September of this year, and from 2012 will effectively be replaced by a new auction run by the recently formed Cape Thoroughbred Sales – effectively, the sponsors of the Guineas. Variety Club has won six times from nine starts and earned R1 144 816 for owners Markus and Ingrid Jooste.


Cape Premier Yearling Sales Cape Guineas (SAf-G1) (12/17)
Kenilworth, South Africa, December 17, R1 million, 1600m, turf, good, 1.39.61 (CR 1.36.20).
VARIETY CLUB (SAF), 58.0, ch c 3, Var – La Massine (SAF) by Secret Prospector. Owner I Jooste and M J Jooste; breeder Beaumont Stud (SAF); trainer J Ramsden; jockey A Marcus (R663.043)
Silver Flyer (SAF), 58.0, b c 3, Silvano (GER) – Fiery Flier (SAF) by Flaming Rock (IRE)
Princess Victoria (SAF), 55.5, b f 3, Victory Moon (SAF) – Platinum Princess (SAF) by Rakeen
Margins: 3¼, 1. 1½
Also ran: Gimmethegreenlight (AUS) 58.0, Liancourt Rock (AUS) 58.0, Silver Haven (SAF) 58.0, Divine Jet (SAF) 58.0, Astro News (SAF) 58.0, Blaze Of Fire (SAF) 58.0, The Balladeer (SAF) 58.0, Heavy Metal (SAF) 58.0, Depardieu (SAF) 58.0, Master Mascus (SAF) 58.0

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