OH SUSANNA. Picture: Liesl King
Jack Milner: It has taken more than 40 years but the Snaith family has finally captured the one race that has eluded them for so long – the Grade 1 Sun Met.
The R5-million event is the Cape’s premier race but despite finishing second on numerous occasions, neither Justin Snaith nor his father, Chris, had managed to train the winner. Not until last Saturday, when three-year-old filly Oh Susanna hit the front 200m out and was kept rolling by Grant van Niekerk to hold off Last Winter by 0.50 lengths. She became the first three-year-old filly to win this race since Maid Of Honour in 1888.
It not only turned out to be a Met triumph for Snaith but he also won the Grade 1 Betting World Cape Flying Championship with Sergeant Hardy and the Grade 1 Klawervlei Majorca Stakes with Snowdance, who always looked to be the best bet on the card.
“This is what it’s all about. Three Grade 1 wins on Met Day must be something of a record,” said Snaith.
It was a red-letter day as well for Van Niekerk who not only rode the Met winner but also Snowdance in the Majorca Stakes and Dutch Philip to victory in the CTS 1200.
With the race being run on strict weight-for-age terms for the first time, Oh Susanna came in with a light weight of 51.5kg which on made her one of the better weighted horses in the race.
She had only run seven times for two wins and three places and being by Street Cry, she was definitely going to enjoy the longer trip.
There had been a steady flow of money for her during the week and by the time the runners were sent on their way she was trading at 6-1. Legal Eagle went off favourite at 28-10 with Marinaresco at 5-1 and Last Winter at 8-1.
Shortly after the break Krambambuli took the field along with Gold Standard and Captain America behind him while Anton Marcus tried had to get Legal Eagle over from an outside draw but was caught wide.
Marinaresco sat midfield while Last Winter, who had got across from the widest draw of all, was placed one off the fence by Piere Strydom but quite a long way back.
Just before the field tuned for home Marcus took Legal Eagle around the field and early in the straight he was sent into the lead. At that point Oh Susanna looked to be in trouble as Van Niekerk was riding her but not getting much response.
“It was a rough race early on and I didn’t want to bustle her because then she takes a hold and is difficult to settle. When she switched off I was happy but in the straight I thought she was gone.
“But then she just picked herself up and ran into the lead. When I got there, I had goose bumps.”
But while Van Niekerk was getting all excited about the win, he failed to see that Strydom, who had been way out of his ground, had finally got Last Winter to respond.
“I kept pushing, and got nothing, and pushed again, and got nothing, but then he started to respond and I thought ‘maybe I can run fourth of fifth’,” said Strydom.
“Suddenly he just took off like a jet and flew up for second.”
Fortunately for Van Niekerk, who was already celebrating before the line, the finishing post came just in time as in a couple of more strides Last Winter could well have got up.
Marinaresco was another who looked dangerous 200m out but the weight took its toll.
“I thought we had a chance but the 8.5kg we were giving the filly made all the difference,” said jockey Aldo Domeyer.
Sadly it appears Legal Eagle might never get his Met win but he is still the “mile king” in South Africa and there are plenty of weight-for-age races for him.
But the day belonged to Snaith Racing.
“It’s taken us 40 something years to win this race,” said Snaith. “When I heard Usain Bolt was coming I knew I had to win the race this year so I could meet him as he is one of my heroes.”