NOTHER RUSSIA WINS THE EMPRESS CLUB
Royal Day at Turffontein was graced by a turf queen – Nother Russia, who won the HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes (Grade 1) for a second successive year.
The Mike de Kock-trained mare started at a warm 19-20 but needed all her regal ability to justify the support as 55-1 outsider Al Danza from the Geoff Woodruff yard tried to steal the R1-million contest with a daring glory dash.
Nother Russia’s regular rider Craig Zackey had to call on his long-standing bond with the five-year-old to get her to put in the extra effort needed to collar the flying Al Danza and jockey Chase Maujean metres from the line. The winning margin was 0.40 lengths, with Cape Town raider Silvan Star (5-1) from Glen Kotzen’s stable claiming third place a further 1.30 lengths back and Paul Peter’s Folk Dance (11-1) fourth.
Nother Russia’s mother Mother Russia – also trained by De Kock – won the Empress Club Stakes back in 2010. And it’s not far-fetched to say a granddaughter might one day also etch her name on the trophy and continue the dynastic succession.
After the race, De Kock said Nother Russia would probably line up in the R4-million Premier’s Champions Challenge next month, but her entry in the Durban July might not be taken up as she’s deemed ready for the paddocks at owner Jessica Slack’s Mauritzfontein stud farm.
Zackey had Nother Russia well positioned from the off, slotting in on the rail three lengths behind the pacemaker. That pacemaker was She’s A Giver(55-1), who was shadowed by Al Danza and Silvan Star.
As the field entered the straight, She’s A Giver still held sway, but Al Danza stayed in her slipstream – before flashing past and grabbing the advantage. Nother Russia was travelling well enough but still had quite a few lengths to make up with 200m to run. Zackey had to remind her of the task at hand, but once she pick up her hooves the result was not in doubt.
The crowd – many among them adorned in top hats and fanciers – roared as the “Queen of Turffontein” was crowned.
This was Nother Russia’s eighth win from 17 starts and she has amassed nearly R3-million in stakes.
The supporting feature, the Spook Express Handicap (Listed) went the way of 8-1 chance Parisienne Chic, owned and trained by St John Gray and ridden by Marco van Rensburg.
The 2450m race was run at a fair clip with Beautiful Shay and Witchcraft stretching out the field. Parisienne Chic travelled in midfield, five or six lengths back, before galloping on stoutly up the middle of the track over the last few hundred metres to prevail by 1.20 lengths from Patchit Up Baby (6-1) with Arte holding on for third.
It was a wide-open betting affair with the favourite Emerald Bay starting at 11-2. After racing handy for most of the way, this Erico Verdonese-trained four-year-old filly faded out of it and trailed in third-last.