HAWWAAM beats REACH FOR THE LINE
Mike Moon: The first no-whip race in South African racing history went off smoothly at Turffontein on Saturday – and might have introduced us to a future champion.
Hawwaam, trained by Mike de Kock and starting at 7-2, won very impressively on debut under the hands and heels of stable jockey Randall Simons. He beat the Azzie-trained Reach For The Line (11-1) – also a first-timer – by more than a length. These two finished a good seven lengths clear of third-placed Owlinthetree, who started as the even-money favourite for Geoff Woodruff.
Arguments in favour of using riding crops in racing usually dwell on the need to control young, inexperienced horses and teach them how to behave and race.
So, the fact that two debutantes thumped a field with several older, experienced runners is perhaps most significant.
Before the Hands N Heels Maiden Plate, Race 2 on the Peermont Emperors Charity Mile day card, Arnold Hyde, acting CEO of the National Horseracing Authority, said on Tellytrack he’d be reporting back to international authorities on the Turffontein no-crop experiment.
He said regulations on whips were already tight and strictly applied, but there was a public perception that whip use was cruel. With racing needing to attract new followers, such perceptions are counter-productive.
This race was a first step in what is likely to be a long and complex process of changing practices and perceptions.
With not a stick in sight, the field got away to a perfect start from the 1400m mark, with Henry James – in his second start – taking up the lead from Reach For The Line.
Hawwaam was unhurried in midfield and accelerated smartly when Simons asked him for an effort in the final 300m.
Reach For The Line had gone clear and looked likely to win, but Hawwaam, running straight with an encouraging hand from Simons along his neck, caught the leader with relative ease and went past.
Hawwaam is a son of Silvano and a half-brother to Rainbow Bridge, a rising star in Cape Town. Bred by Wilgebosdrift & Mauritzfontein, Hawwaam was sold as a yearling to Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum for R1 million.
Second-placed Reach For The Line is by Potala Palace and was purchased for much more modest R125,000 at the same 2017 National Yearling Sale.
Another innovative race on Charity Mile day was the Monaco Maiden Million, sponsored to the tune of R1 million by the royalty and businesses of the European principality.
The R500,000 first prize went the way of Bye Bye Rocket from the Paul Matchett yard, who held on by a short-head to beat fast-finishing Against The Grain from Sean Tarry’s barn. That short-head margin was worth a cool R325,000.
Veteran rider Mark Khan deserves a decent slice of the winning purse as he got a crucial final effort out of his mount, having timed his dash for glory to perfection.
Champion jockey Lyle Hewitson was not disgraced in defeat, having extricated his horse from a battling mass of horses to almost grab the spoils. Hewitson took a tumble from Against The Grain immediately after the post, but got up immediately and walked away from the scene.
Hewitson then showed the festive Charity Mile meeting crowd at Turffontein the fighting qualities that made him the nation’s champion jockey as he drove filly Vi Va Pi Pa to victory in the R500,000 Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup.
It was just an hour after he’d crashed to the turf in front of the grandstand.
The young man, who had a two-month injury break earlier in the year, also did well in the Graham Beck Stakes, snatching third place on 22-1 outsider In Cahoots. Later he was a close second in the Charity Mile, his mount Tilbury Fort going down by a whisker to Coral Fever (see separate story).
Hewitson gave Vi Va Pi Pa a superb ride for trainer Sean Tarry in the Cup race for horses sold on the Ready To Run Sale. He had the daughter of Visionaire a few lengths off the pace of the 1400m contest and then used strength and timing to get the better of dogged front-runner Chijmes. The gap at the line was a mere 0.20 lengths.
Even-money favourite Railtrip had a less than perfect trip, getting shuffled to the back of the field, and with more luck might have got closer than his eventual third place, 1.50 lengths behind the winner.
Khan’s win on Bye Bye Rocket gave him a double for the day.
He’d kicked off the meeting with a rare contemporary win for his old comrade-in-arms Geoff Woodruff.
Ali Bon Dubai’s victory in the Listed Java Handicap over 2400m was also a good start for punters as he was the tote favourite.
Woodruff and Khan reminded racing fans of their glory days with a very professional effort. Woodruff has built up the son of Lateral into a useful stayer over the past year and got him into this race with a nice galloping weight of 52kg.
Khan had Ali Bon Dubai well placed from the start, about six lengths off leader Dromedaris, who dragged the field along at a fair clip. American Landing and Tirzan headed the chasing pack, with Tirzan, Parisienne Chic and Odd Rob also handy.
As they rounded the bend and faced the judge with 800m to run, Khan slipped his mount up the inside and started threading his way through. Dromedaris still held sway with 400m to go, but Mr Winsome, Odd Rob and Ali Bon Dubai soon flew past.
When a gap opened on the inside rail Ali Bon Dubai took it and shot into the lead, going a length clear – and then five lengths.
Odd Rob battled on to claim second, with Tirzan and Kilrain next best.