Mike Moon: It was a dark and stormy day at Turffontein as Saturday’s Grand Series meeting was washed out after only four races had been run. But those four races did produce a few bright moments for racing fans.
Two performances, in particular, stood out and will linger in the memory of those who know and love the game.
In the first race, first-timer Isle De France from the Mike de Kock stable rolled back the clock to the glory days of her grandmother Ilha De Vitoria, a Brazilian import who thrilled crowds at the city track more than a decade ago.
A grey filly racing in the silks of Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud – just like grandma, and indeed mother Ilha Bela (no slouch herself in the galloping department) – Isle De France started as the 13-10 favourite in a Maiden Plate for three-year-old females over 1450m on the Inside track.
The 12-horse field plodded its way through the drizzle with little to write home about – until, with 300m to go, Lerena gave his mount a shake of the reins. Within a few strides the filly seemed to have accelerated to twice the galloping speed of her rivals. Race over.
Lerena geared down the youngster over the last 50m but still won by 4.10 lengths. It could have been 10.
Afterwards the in-form rider declared it “a privilege” to ride horses like Isle De France.
The old maestro De Kock was on hand to see the event and waxed lyrical about this family of marvellous female horses. He said they’d been a gift to his own family and repeated an observation he’d made before about Ilha De Vitoria giving him some of his most pleasurable moments in the game.
Racegoers will be keeping a keen lookout for Isle De France, who is by Var, in the coming months of the summer season.
Another name that’ll spark interest is Silver God.
Trained by Sean Tarry, this four-year-old son of Silvano has always been highly thought of by the former champion conditioner. However, his mind was seldom on the job at hand when he went to the races. He won two of his first seven starts but didn’t live up to high hopes in feature races.
A decision was taken to geld him and any lingering doubt that this was a good move for his racing career would have been swept away by the manner in which he won Race 4 on Saturday.
With the rain coming down ever more heavily, Silver God went out an 8-1 chance with apprentice Luke Ferraris in the irons for an Assessment Plate over 1450m. His two stablemates, Carbon Atom and Social Order, were favourite and second favourite respectively, but when it came to the crunch they didn’t look in the same league.
Rule The Night, a 5-1 shot under Muzi Yeni, led from the gong and appeared to have stolen the race from the front with just 200m to run. But Silver God and young Ferraris struck out in pursuit and overhauled the flying leader in a thrilling finish.
It was a performance of speed and heart and a clearly delighted Tarry agreed afterwards that the fateful snip had done the trick.
A horse that also bears watching is African Daisy, a first-timer who started as 3-1 favourite for Tarry in Race 2, a Maiden Plate for three-year-olds.
She looked all at sea in the trying conditions and got a heavy bump in the final stretch. But she battled on bravely under champion jockey Lyle Hewitson to finish fourth, only 0.90 lengths behind winner Neng Kapa Neng.