WONDERWALL wins the Spring Challenge
A circling Highveld thunderstorm and a couple of downpours were just the ticket for Wonderwall, a somewhat unheralded three-year-old colt from the yard of Sean Tarry.
As he lined up for the Grade 2 Joburg Spring Challenge, the son of Querari had one win to his credit from four starts – on yielding ground.
However, the lightly raced Wonderwall has obviously impressed Tarry as he was tossed into this weight-for-age contest against some tough opponents – not least from his own yard.
Given his handy No 4 gate, a tongue-tie strike and all-round decent youthful form, he might have warranted shorter than a 10-1 starting price. A concern would have been a four-month break from racing, but, as punters should know by now, the champion trainer likes to race his horses fit.
Jockey Lyle Hewitson got Wonderwall away with the chargers and assumed the lead as the field settled. Mujallad (8-1), who got a flyer, disputed second with the favourite, New Predator (3-1).
Tarry’s apparent stable-elect Matador Man (33-10), winner of the million-rand sales race at Greyville in June, found himself well back in the running – alongside another stablemate, Finchatton (44-1).
As they spun off the elbow on the Inside course, Wonderwall was still striding confidently in front. New Predator made his expected move, with the in-form Will Pays (9-2) looking threatening. The unfancied Finchatton also stuck his nose into the fray.
But Hewitson shook up Wonderwall and the colt accelerated nicely to cruise well clear and win impressively by 2.25 lengths.
Finchatton, steered by Callan Murray, grabbed second place from Will Pays, with New Predator well beaten in fourth.
The 1-2 for Tarry will have fired up the champion stable, which has not quite hit its straps thus far in the spring season.
In the fillies and mares’ heat of the Spring Challenge, Bella Sonata, a classy mare who’s bumped a few good ones of late, put it all together to claim the Grade 2 trophy.
With the race delayed by 30 minutes after a Highveld downpour and a track inspection at the request of the jockeys, it was anyone’s guess where the best galloping turf would be.
Keagan de Melo spurned the consensus of his fellow riders, who came off the elbow of the Inside course and headed for the centre-outside running. He stuck to the inside rail, all on his own, and it paid off as five-year-old Bella Sonata – the 60kg topweight in the weight-for-age contest – bounded to a half-length victory over two three-year-old fillies, Mrs O and Rockin Russian, both carrying just 52kg.
De Melo and Bella Sonata (6-1) had not started all that well, despite a No 4 draw at the 1450m start. Secret Star (6-1) went out to set the pace, with She’s A Giver (5-2, favourite), Smokey Affair (20-1) and Mrs O (25-1) in pursuit – and Bella Sonata at least eight lengths in arears.
Slipping up the inside rail, De Melo soon had the daughter of Silvano on terms and then edged her ahead to win.
The unfancied Mrs O ran a superb race in second, while Rockin Russian was impressive in third.