HAWWAAM & De Kock team
Jack Milner: Every country has a couple of races that, year after year, define the quality of the crop. The Grade 1 SA Classic is, for South Africa, one of those races.
It is a race that brings out the best in horses and that is exactly what happened at Turffontein on Saturday as Hawwaam proved his Guineas’ run was all wrong. The real Hawwaam (11-10) turned up and reversed a 2.70-length defeat in the Gauteng Guineas to beat stablemate Barahin by 5.75 lengths with Guineas winner National Park another 1.50 lengths back in the R2-million race.
It was a very relieved Gavin Lerena who brought Hawwaam back to the winner’s enclosure as he took a lot of flak for the Guineas defeat. This time there were could be no finger-pointing as everything went according to plan.
The half-brother to Sun Met winner Rainbow Bridge was kept near the back as Approach Control and Alyaasaat ensured a stinging pace – one that saw Hawwaam lying third last with only National Park, who was adopting different tactics, and Owlinthetree behind him.
As is often the case in these feature races, the field switched out once turning for home but, on their inside, one could see Hawwaam moving up strongly. He had the lead at the 400m and for a moment it looked as if Barahin and National Park might pose a threat but over the final 200m Hawwaam left them for the dead.
While waiting to be interviewed, Lerena put his arms around Mathew de Kock and said emotionally: “Thank you for keeping me on this horse.”
When asked what was going through his mind during the race, De Kock replied with a smile, “Chaos. It’s never easy to watch these races.”
Many punters may not be surprised by the outcome but an enormous amount of work had been put into Hawwaam to get him ready for the SA Classic. In fact, last Tuesday there must have been some doubt as to whether he would even make it to the race.
Hawwaam is a very difficult customer and, during experimention to find the right bit, one of those used injured his mouth quite seriously and De Kock said they were dosing him heavily with salt water to help clear up the cut.
Fortunately, the remedy worked and they eventually found the right bit, courtesy of Bomber Nel, which stopped him pulling like a Trojan and did not injure his mouth.
As far as the next move for Hawwaam is concerned, Mathew was non-committal. “That’s up to the big boys, my dad, Sheikh Hamdan and his racing manager, Angus Gold.”
There were no excuses from the connections of National Park as to the outcome of this race.
“When we moved up at the 400m and I saw Hawwaam on my inside I thought we had a race on our hands but in a matter of strides it was all over,” said jockey Richard Fourie.
“His mission was the Guineas and whatever we did after that was a bonus. I was happy when we saw there were only nine horses in the field because I thought that would give us a chance.
“But 1800m is probably a touch too far for him right now but, I will say, he is still a very decent horse.”
The R1.25-million Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic proved a triumph for Sean Tarry as Return Flight (15-4) led all the way to beat Fillies Guineas winner Nafaayes (5-2) by 0.80 lengths with a flying Blossom finishing another head back in third and Storm Destiny in fourth.
Anton Marcus rode the daughter of Pomodoro for owner Chris van Niekerk to give the jockey another Grade 1 victory – “it’s now 104 Grade 1 wins, I think”. For Tarry it was Grade 1 win No 51.
Return Flight was one of those great bargains as she cost just R20,000 as a yearling and has now notched up her second Grade 1 win, taking her earnings to R1,450,725.
“I told anyone who would listen that she could not lose the Triple Tiara but she went slightly wrong before the Fillies Guineas and I decided to not to run but rather go for a smaller field in an Assessment Plate a week later,” said Tarry.
Asked where she will go next, Tarry shrugged. “Possibly the Oaks, or the Champions Challenge – or maybe both. We will have to discuss that.”
In that prep run she finished a 1.20-lengths second behind last year’s SA Derby winner Hero’s Honour.
The defeat of Soqrat in the Grade 1 Hawaii Stakes sent many Pick 6 and BiPot tickets into dustbins but the Cape Guineas winner was beaten just 0.50 lengths.
“He’s not done well when returning from a rest when running over 1400m so I’m very happy with the run,” said Mathew de Kock. “His mission is the Horse Chestnut Stakes in any case.”
The race went to Geoff Woodruff-trained Zouaves, who flew up late under Marco van Rensburg to beat Cascapedia by a head.
The Grade 3 Acacia Handicap for fillies and mares went to High Seas Beauty for hard-working stalwart trainer Dianne Stenger. She went off at 9-1 and was well ridden by Fourie.
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