Mike Moon: Father-and-son training duo Mike and Adam Azzie had a spring in the step as they greeted two of their charges in the winning and second-place enclosures after the feature race at Turffontein on Saturday.
The R250,000 Spring Spree Stakes (Grade 3) opened the Highveld spring and summer season and an evenly matched line-up ensured an absorbing 1200m contest for punters. But, in the end, the Azzies pulled all the strings. Their third runner, Spring Steel, set a cracking pace to pave the way for his two stablemates, who flashed up in the closing stages to share the biggest cheques.
Jockey Craig Zackey, who had a stellar August with 16 winners – a fair few of them courtesy of the Azzies – is continuing in similar vein into September. With the invaluable assistance of the No 1 draw in a bank of starting stalls positioned right on the bend of the tight Inside track, he could choose his travelling arrangements. Fifth position, tracking the lead, was what he opted for.
As the tearaway Spring Steel tired in the straight, Zackey and Will Pays pounced, driving up the centre of the course and grabbing a commanding lead they never looked like relinquishing.
Angel’s Power responded to Piere Strydom’s urgings a tad too late and couldn’t haul in Will Pays.
Sporting Monarch, who had raced on the haunches of Steel Spring for most of the sprint, stayed on for third place, while Port Elizabeth raider Classify ran on well into fourth – in what was clearly a warm-up race for a tilt at the Grand Heritage at the Vaal in a month’s time.
Favourite Romi’s Boy from the in-form Alec Laird stable, who was well handicapped and handily drawn, had every chance, racing up with the pace but failing to quicken when asked.
Six-year-old gelding Will Pays registered his ninth victory in his 28th start and paid a handsome R8.20 for a win on the Tote. He was the second son of the unfashionable stallion Imperial Stride to win on the day, first-timer filly Rock Pigeon having sprung a surprise in Race 4 for the Weiho Marwing yard.
Strydom had a lot more fortune in fast-closing finish aboard Secret Star in the For The Ladies Stakes (Non-Black Type), Race 6 on the card. Striker and the four-year-old Pathfork filly just got up to pip Spring Wonder on the line.
It was Secret Star’s sixth win from 13 starts and she looks ready to campaign profitably for trainer Stuart Pettigrew over the summer.