Nicci Garner: Grade 1 Allan Robertson Championship winner Brave Mary will be leaving South Africa for France to test her ability against some of the best horses in Europe.
The Brave Tin Soldier three-year-old departed trainer Paul Matchett’s yard on Tuesday for the arduous journey to her new life. She’ll enter quarantine in Cape Town before heading off to Mauritius for another stint in isolation. She will reach France only in February, just in time to start preparing for the European Flat racing season. She will be put in training with leading French handler Alain de Royer-Dupré who handled the career of Zarkava, the best of her era.
Bred by Rupert Plersch at Summerhill Stud, Brave Mary cost just R40,000 at last year’s Cape Thoroughbred Sales’ Johannesburg Ready To Run Sale and has already banked R1,106,250. Said Matchett: “I trained the mother Mary Lou, who won six races for me (including the Swallow Stakes). When I saw Brave Mary at the sales she looked just like her mother so I bought her.”
Brave Mary started racing in March for owners Les Taylor and Dean Bayley and few could have predicted the heights to which she would rise when she went off at 22-1 and finished fourth behind Spring Breeze in that 1000m Maiden Juvenile Plate.
She only got off the mark three races later, in a Maiden Juvenile Plate on 9 May, and Matchett then threw her in at the deep end in the Grade 1 Allan Robertson Championship. Brave Mary started at 30-1 but there is a racing adage, “horses can’t read” and she won a great race in the Grade 1, beating Green Plains by 1.75 lengths.
Within hours, prominent USA racehorse owner Barry Irwin of Team Valor was sniffing at the door and Brave Mary changed hands for an undisclosed sum to race for Irwin’s syndicate in partnership with Vanashree and Anant Singh.
In her two starts as a three-year-old, Brave Mary has shown her mettle against the colts, finishing second in both. The first was to Pera Palace in the Sophomore on Heritage Handicap Day at the Vaal and then last Saturday on Charity Mile Day she found only Big Bear too good in the R2.5-million Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup sponsored by CTS.
“After she changed hands, it was always the intention to export her,” said Matchett. “I was expecting to have her a little longer, but after last Saturday’s race I think her owners decided she had a lot of ability so not to waste any time.
“It’s a blow for my stable, but I think she has the ability to do well in Europe and she will fly the South African flag proudly to give South African racing and breeding a big boost,” said Matchett.
Her loss will leave a big gap in the trainer’s yard and his feature-race aspirations will now rest on Heritage Consolation winner Dan The Lad and “nice staying type of horse” Royal Honour, winner of the Aquanaut Handicap.
Royal Honour, beaten three lengths by Let It Rain in Tuesday’s Java Handicap, is entered for the Racing Association Handicap on Summer Cup Day and Matchett believes he will not be disgraced. “He’ll definitely be in with a chance,” the trainer said.