Nicci Garner: Mr Winsome, even-money favourite, put up a great trial for the Vodacom Durban July when winning the R300,000 Track And Ball Derby over 2400m at Scottsville on Sunday.
Dean Kannemeyer’s runner is always a bit feisty at the start and, after giving the handlers a torrid time, he started marginally slowly yet again. Jockey Anthony Delpech, never one to fuss, was content to allow Mr Winsome to race near the back as first Sun On Africa and then Helderberg Blue set the fractions. Helderberg Blue was followed by Let It Rain and Sun On Africa with topweight Ovidio and Captain Splendid next ahead of Three Balloons and Mr Winsome. Mr Winsome’s stablemate Mr O’Neill was the back marker.
Delpech brought Mr Winsome outwards as they straightened and had a clear view of the finish post with Helderberg Blue still in the lead. However the favourite took his time warming to his task and the early skirmish was won by Sun On Africa, who took over when Helderberg Blue tired inside the final 400m. Mr Winsome was then only just starting to wind up and not proving an easy ride. He proceeded to hang in towards Sun On Africa, only straightening up to race beside the 20-1 shot when they were eyeball to eyeball.
It took a few strides for Delpech to persuade the favourite to get on with it, but when the four-year-old Silvano gelding decided to put the race to bed, he bounded 0.50 lengths in front of his rival and then stayed on. Sun On Africa could not make up the deficit but finished a clear second, four lengths ahead of third-placed Let It Rain.
Zante did it tough in the R300,000 Track And Ball Oaks (Grade 3) also over 2400m, taking over early in the back straight and keeping rolling to win well from a wall of six horses who finished just a length apart.
Epona, who represented trainer Joey Ramsden and jockey Anton Marcus, was the weak favourite at 32-10 with Girl On The Run at 59-10 and Witchcraft, bidding to win the race for the second year running, next on offer at 7-1. Patchit Up Baby started at 8-1 with Francia at 17-2. Geoff Woodruff-trained Zante drifted from 8-1 in the morning to 16-1.
When they’d sorted themselves out at the start Zafira ended up a reluctant leader but Ian Sturgeon decided to quicken things up a bit shortly after the field turned into the back straight and circled the field to take Zante to the front. Zafira took up the stalking position ahead of Witchcraft, who overcame a wide draw to race on the rail next to Estimation. Girl On The Run was about eight lengths off the leader with Epona second last, followed only by The Centenary.
Zante hung out slightly at about the 200m marker, forcing Sturgeon to change crop hands, then she edged in and he switched hands again before putting the aid away and riding her hands and heels in the final 100m.
Nothing could close her down, with Girl On The Run doing best in second with Estimation a short head further back in third and 0.15 lengths ahead of Witchcraft. Royal Utopia ran on well from midfield to finish fifth, two lengths behind the winner and only a neck in front of The Centenary. Francia finished seventh ahead of Epona, who never got a blow in and finished eighth, 3.25 lengths behind the winner.