Khumalo, Bennie de Wet relative Mr Botha
A typical Highveld thunderstorm severely disrupted racing at Turffontein, but not before lightning strikes on the racecourse, courtesy of Sean Tarry-trained Matador Man and Return Flight. Immediately after the running of the main event – the 30 Year Anniversary Hennenman Memorial Progress Plate – a decision was taken to abandon the rest of the programme, Races 7, 8 and 9, due to trecherous going.
In the headline event, Matador Man, starting at 3-1, made his usual slow start from the 1600m stalls on the Inside track, but this time only lost a length to the rest of the field. Jockey S’Manga Khumalo fell in behind the other eight runners and bided his time.
Tarry’s other runner in the race, Warrior’s Rest (5-1) under Lyle Hewitson, won the battle for the lead, with Jackman, Full Mast, Polar Ice and Sukamisa in close attendance. Matador Man was at least eight lengths off the pace at the halfway mark.
In the shake-up, Full Mast grabbed the lead, with Shukamisa, Glider Pilot, Polar Ice and 7-2 favourite Ghost Town threatening. But storming up the middle-outside of the course from last position on the turn came Matador Man and Khumalo. They flashed past their rivals and won going away by 0.60 lengths from Glider Pilot (6-1) and Shukamisa (13-1). Ghost Town finished fourth, but sadly broke down immediately after crossing the finishing line.
Matador Man has been nominated for the Grade 1 President’s Champion Challenge next month, but in his post-race interview Tarry mentioned taking the son of Toreador to KwaZulu-Natal for the winter season – with a race like the Million Mile in mind.
Tarry said the recent addition of blinkers to Matador Man’s kit had improved his starting speed, as had a lot of work at home with the pens.
Earlier, towering dark clouds swooped over Johannesburg from the south, delaying racing by about an hour. Runners for Race 5 – due off at 2.35pm – were on their way to the start when a loud thunderclap had them scurrying back to the saddling enclosure. Racing got underway again at 3.30pm but the drenching the turf had received – on top of rain during the week – saw underfoot conditions becoming dangerous and the late-afternoon action was called off.
Race 5 proved worth waiting an hour for, with a remarkable win by Return Flight (18-10), who was no less than 11.25 lengths ahead of second-placed Long Pond (17-10 favourite) at the end of the 1450m maiden juvenile contest.
Before the race, trainer Sean Tarry described Return Flight – a daughter of his erstwhile stable star and Durban July winner Pomodoro – as “a very nice filly”. The two-year-old was as good his word as she obliterated her opposition under Hewitson.
Tarry saddled three of the six winners on the day, the first one being Three Stars, the 5-2 favourite guided home by Khumalo in Race 2.