Nicci Garner: The Sean Tarry stable’s form did not give punters much confidence leading into the R2-million Sansui Summer Cup but he is not champion trainer for nothing and the affable Randjesfontein handler bounced back into prominence when Liege won the big race.
The entire race meeting was postponed for a day from Saturday due to incessant rain on the morning of the race meeting, which made the track unsafe for horses and jockeys.
With a full day’s entertainment lined up off the track, the occasion was still well attended and those who braved the weather seemed to have a wonderful afternoon.
Few trainers were that concerned about the delay and the race meeting went off without a hitch on a sunny, well-attended Sunday meeting.
The big race was everything it promised to be.
Jockey Raymond Danielson had Liege in midfield as Crowd Pleaser set a solid gallop. Liege, who had finished fourth in this race last year, made good progress when the runners cornered into the straight to take over about 300m out and won a good race.
Liege started at 16-1 and beat Fort Ember with Coral Fever third and favourite Pagoda fourth. Early favourite Orchid Island finished sixth.
Danielson said afterwards: “I’ve never ridden Liege in a race although I have worked him once or twice at home. He didn’t feel at home like he did today. He felt very well – I feel I rode the best horse in the race (and he proved it).
“Liege was cruising at the 400m. When I sent him I felt I might have gone a little early and I didn’t expect him to kick like that.
“Obviously I was drawn No 2, so I didn’t have to use him to get up there. Once I asked him to quicken, he quickened well. Mr Tarry has his horses fit and he made it to the line.
“I really like him as a horse. He’s not the nicest ride in the parade but at the start and in the race he was a true gentleman.”
Tarry, scoring his second Summer Cup win after Aslan in 2009, said: “Thank goodness everything’s come together for today.”
Liege is owned in partnership by businessmen Chris van Niekerk and Markus Jooste.
A quickfire raid on the Highveld paid off handsomely for trainer Alistair Gordon and Monks Hood, who flew from third last entering the straight to win the R500,000 Investec Dingaans (Grade 2) over 1600m.
Gordon said afterwards: “We were planning to take him to Cape Town to contest the Selangor and the Cape Guineas, but we had a setback with him and he wasn’t going to be ready in time.
“Everybody kept telling me the Cape three-year-olds are very strong and suggested we come to the Dingaans. I spoke to (his owner) Mary Slack and she agreed.
“We may still have a go at the Guineas, but it’ll depend on where he draws. There’s no point in travelling all the way there if you don’t get a decent draw.”
Seerite, who trainer Robbie Sage has high hopes for during the Highveld Autumn Season, was finishing fastest and failed by only a head to tag the winner and Anthony Delpech.
It was yet another turn-up in the mega Pick 6 because Monks Hood started at 12-1.
Favourite at 21-10 was Big Bear, who was always midfield and finished seventh, although only 2.75 lengths off the winner.
Bull Valley (7-2), Naafer (5-1) and unsound Graduation Day (5-1, tote favourite) dominated in an open-betting R450,000 World Sports Betting Merchants (Grade 2) over 1160m, but did not deliver the goods. Naafer did best of them in second, with Bull Valley finishing eighth and Graduation Day 12th, never having really raised a gallop.
Honours went to 12-1 chance The Thinker, who was closer to the back than pacemakers Romi’s Boy and Naafer going through the 1000m marker.
Naafer was in a clear lead at the 400m mark, but jockey Donavan Mansour was winding The Thinker up and he took off in the final 200m to get his head in front about 100m out and win going away by more than a length. Amazing Strike ran on for third ahead of Captain Aldo.
The Thinker is trained by Johan Janse van Vuuren for Jooste’s Mayfair Speculators (Pty) Ltd (Nom Derek Brugman).
Janse van Vuuren said: “I was obviously a bit concerned about (the postponement) because the horses stood here the whole day and got home very late last night. After Square The Circle got beaten (in Race 2) I was a bit gutted. You just hope something’s going to turn your way the rest of the day. I liked this horse during the week. He was putting in some good work. This was always a race I wanted to win.”
The day’s banker arrived in the R400,000 Gauteng Ipi Tombe Stakes over 1600m – Nother Russia, who started at 12-10 and gave her supporters a bit of a fright in making heavy weather of beating a flying Bi Pot (9-1) by a long head, with She’s A Giver third.
Nother Russia was ridden by Craig Zackey for Mike de Kock.
Al Danza set a fast pace from Heaps Of Fun and She’s A Giver with Sylvan On Fire and Tahini next, ahead of Nother Russia on the rail, Bi Pot and Guns And Roses.
She’s a Giver and Heaps Of Fun led briefly halfway down the straight, but Murray had Nother Russia winding up for her run and she led about 250m out. She stayed on well, but Bi Pot was flying late and only just failed.
De Kock said: “Nother Russia’s got into everybody’s hearts in the stable, especially Jessica (Slack). Her mother, Mother Russia, was a bit of a favourite, too. For the mother to have only one baby and a Grade 1 winner, too!
“This is the rewarding part, why most of us are here, to see the champions.”
Favourite San Fermin jumped awkwardly and perhaps did not enjoy the going in the R275,000 Hi-Fi Corporation Fillies Mile (Grade 3) over 1600m and, after making some improvement in the straight, faded to finish eighth.
All was not lost for Pick 6 players, though, because honours went to 33-10 second favourite Folk Dance, who represented in-form trainer Paul Peter and jockey Gavin Lerena.
Folk Dance was settled in fourth behind Cashel Palace, Roy’s Riviera and Mar Del Sur, but was asked for an effort shortly after the runners cornered. She led over 300m from home and won well from Aurelia Cotta, who came from near the back to beat the pacemaker by a long neck. Roy’s Riviera stayed on for fourth.
Peter said afterwards: “She showed us all the ability. She’s just been a bit green. Now we’ve got a jockey who will stick with her, please God the sky’s the limit.”
Folk Dance is owned in partnership by Thalente Myeni, George O’Brien and the Hyperpaint Syndicate.
My Friend Lee sprung a 28-1 surprise in the R250,000 EFC Worldwide Magnolia Handicap (Grade 3) over 1160m.
At halfway Spring Wonder led from Wrecking Ball and La Bella Mia on her inside and Queen Laurie on her outside. My Funny Valentine, Daring Diva, My Friend Lee and Arissa were next with Alileo racing on the inside about in line with them. Shivering Sea was next with the rest outpaced.
Wrecking Ball took over inside the final 400m before fading. My Friend Lee then started a sustained run to lead 100m from the line and win going away. Arissa was rapidly closing the gap but was still 1.20 lengths in arrears at the line. Lady Starlett, who seemed to have no chance of even running in the money 400m from home, rocketed in to finish another 0.40 lengths back in third and ahead of favourite Spring Wonder, who had beaten the winner home in their penultimate start.
My Friend Lee, who races in the colours of Bryn Ressel and Keith Waterston, is trained by Lucky Houdalakis and was ridden by Muzi Yeni.
Her rider said: “I thought a couple of horses would finish in front of her, like Shivering Sea, who looked like she would be hard to oppose. My gut feel was stick to the horse whose been good to you. I know last time they ran me off my feet but I was hoping for better luck. I thought she’d be good for a place, but she showed her class.
“Mr Houdalakis put some speed work into her and I think that helped her.
“I hit the front a little bit sooner than I’d like but obviously she’s got the stamina so I knew she’d be able to sustain it.”
Fortissima won the R250,000 Racing Association Handicap (Listed) over 3200m, the other feature at the meeting.