Var’s Group 1 Rush!

Clairwood 16 July

Rush Of Var! August Rush blitzes the Gr1 Mercury Sprint field.

Northfields Bloodstock supremo Robin Bruss was instrumental  in the importation of Avontuur stallion Var to South Africa and he has been an avid supporter of the progeny. He thus  would  have felt a pleasing sense of accomplishment as the son of Forest Wildcat yet again proved his immense value to our breeding industry when he sired August Rush, the winner of the R550 000 Gr 1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m at Clairwood on 16 July.

Bruss is also a part-owner of the four year old who had won four from seventeen before today, but who probably has frankly always been regarded by the experts to be just off the very best. Bernard  Fayd’Herbe, who has ridden him in his last two starts, changed all that in 71,26 seconds with a brilliant ride  from right up with the pace,  as he tracked Gaultier- who he also knows well. The top-class rider, who looked quite pale and tired  in the post-race interview, let his mount drift right across to the outside and rode him with the hands, as the gelding doesn’t enjoy the whip.  An emotional trainer Neil Bruss – one of three Neils involved in the horse – thanked his jockey and also mentioned the horse’s former trainer Mike Azzie, who was ‘the first person to congratulate me.’ A thrilling race that stood out like a sore thumb on a lacklustre day otherwise.

Feeling the Mercury Rush! Owner Neil Smith lifts the trophy.

While all the Neils celebrated, and particularly owner Neil Smith, whose Maiden Gr1 win it was and who had flown in from Germany, the long faces and list of Mercury Sprint disappointments was a long one. It includes the favourite and Post Merchants winner Splash Gold, who appeared to have every chance but faded right out. Trainer Paul Peter’s  very fast second favourite Magico, also showed some toe but fell in a hole, while the expensive Charles Laird Australian import Exclaim ‘N’ Exclude was also disappointing. It was left to Joey Ramsden’s smart but lightly raced Lecture gelding Copper Parade to chase the winner home, while the enigmatic Captain’s Secret would have thrilled the Hammies rugger buggers, Bryn Ressell and Marsh Shirtliff,  by running a courageous third under Aldo Domeyer.

It is obvious that we are nearing the end of a long hard season judging by the threadbare supporting bill on today’s Clairwood card. Even the most diehard punters would have found the fields generally lacking in quality and quantity and the afternoon’s entertainment was rather flattered by the healthy Pick Six pool of R2,8 million, which benefitted from a sizeable carryover.  The chasm between the superb Grade 1 race  and the six maiden plates on the card is a wide one and one wonders whether we should be looking to the trainers or the race programmers for answers and explanations?

Head Weighter! Fayd'Herbe rode a great treble on the day.

Jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe had a great day riding three  winners,  which included a top-class cat and mouse ride on the Joey Ramsden-trained Lion In Winter. The pace in the Pinnacle Stakes over 1800m was ridiculously slow and this was borne out by the stayers Another Giant and Golden Parachute dictating things up front. Fayd’Herbe rode a shrewd race grabbing first run on the favourite Safwan in the 400m sprint to the line and taking clever advantage of the circus around him. Hammie’s Boy ranged up on the outside but could only plod on into a weak third. The many horses running their Gold Cup trial race here enjoyed little more than a formal grass gallop and they may as well have taken their chances down the sprint straight.

Stallion Modus Vivendi has been billed something of a one-hit wonder after the terrific exploits of his brilliant daughter Dancewiththedevil, and it was pleasing to watch his daughter Sylvan Breeze win the Juvenile Plate over 1200m. She provided Anton Marcus with his first winner of the day and trainer Glen Kotzen and owner Fred Crabbia, who also bred her, appear to have a nice sort on their hands, as she won well.  In a weeakfish field that was the enduring theme on the day, she accounted for the Solsjkaer filly, I Got You Babe, and the rather disappointing Joburg visitor Maggie Thatch.

Lammerskraal domination. Leo Rapax wins the third race.

Lammerskraal Stud dominated the finish of the first leg of the Pick Six where they own the winner and bred the first two past the post. Bernard Fayd’Herbe and Robbie Fradd went nose to nose in the final 300m of this slow-run Juvenile Plate over 1800m. The winner was Fayd’Herbe’s mount Leo Rapax who showed stronger  resolve in the finish to hold off the Tarry-trained Parade Leader colt Aegis Fang. The winner is by Go Deputy out of the very talented but unsound daughter of Western Winter, Aquilla Rapax, who was trained in the Cape by Joey Ramsden in the latter days of her turf career. The first two drew a mile away from the other six runners, who can’t be too good. Four of those are trained by Mike De Kock and the result of this race must constitute a world record for a drubbing of four De Kock horses in one race!

The competitiveness of the neck-and-neck duel for the national champion jockey title was exemplified in the thrilling finish of the final leg of the Pick Six, where Anton Marcus and Anthony Delpech fought each other all the way to the line with a dead-heat being declared. Marcus was riding the unbeaten 8-10 favourite Unannounced and in the Graduation Plate over 1000m and he looked to have the beating of the De Kock gelding Second Tycoon, at around the 200m marker. But Delpech got the son of Captain Al to rally and the photo could not split the two. The two year olds beat the year older Regal Joy and the balance of their opposition by a country mile.  

The Summerhill-bred Ikati made an impressive debut for the Dennis Drier yard to win the final race, a Maiden Plate over 1000m, when she showed ability and maturity, to beat the well-tried Sweet Charity. The R90 000 daughter of Cataloochee, was backed into 16-10 and the transparency of the Drier yard is highly commendable as there were no secrets or insider trading around the fact that she could run. This approach is a tad rare these days but only good for racing.

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