In a thrilling finish, top-weight Coral Fever won the Grade 2 Peermont Emperors Palace Charity Mile at Turffontein on Saturday.
In doing so, the Robbie Sage-trained gelding won R150,000 for his associated charity, Khangezile Primary. His celebrity, Pallance Dladla, and representatives of his media partner, Sunday World Online, participated in the big cheque handover.
Eight of the 16 runners were still in with a winning chance within the final 100m, with a wall of horses surging for the line. In the final lunge, jockey Muzi Yeni got 18-1 shot Coral Fever’s nose down in front, with Tilbury Fort (7-1) the unlucky loser by a whisker with champion jockey Lyle Hewitson in the saddle.
(Earlier in the day, Hewitson had taken a fall in front of the grandstand and amazed onlookers by getting to his feet and strolling away – then reappearing to win another race. See separate story.)
Doosra (8-1) was a short-head further back in third and a plucky Arctica (16-1) in fourth.
Coral Fever started from the No 15 gate, a disadvantage over the Turffontein 1600m and punters let him start at 18-1 – a remarkable price for the reigning 2018 Highveld Horse of the Year.
Yeni was unable to sneak a prominent position from the start and was content to lob along in the rear-guard for much of the race. Up front, Champagne Haze was trying to steal it from the front with Full Mast, Captain Aldo, New Predator, Infamous Fox and Arctica in pursuit.
With R1-million in prize money up for grabs, the tempo was frenetic in the finishing straight, with horses spread across the full width of the course and just about every runner taking a turn to nose ahead at some point.
Yeni and Coral Fever made their challenge up the extreme outside, with Tilbury Fort in step and Doosra and Arctica also in the mix. In the end it was the bob of a head that won it.
The 9-2 favourite Noble Secret appeared to have every chance but couldn’t do better than finish in midfield.
Coral Fever was the class act of the race, allotted 61kg to carry, and he underlined that quality with a brave performance to claim a seventh career win from 23 starts and push his earnings over the R4-million mark.
Pundits won’t be underestimating the six-year-old son of Judpot again anytime soon.