Mike Moon: Trainer Sean Tarry played a blinder to land the big cheque in Race 3, the first of the richly endowed Maiden Plates on Royal Day at Turffontein. On debut, his two-year-old filly Victoria Paige blew away 14 of her elders and marked herself as a horse of considerable promise.
Starting at odds of 8-1, Victoria Paige missed the break at the 1400m start and trailed the field through the first 200m. However, apprentice jockey Luke Ferraris calmly coaxed his mount back into the race.
Inside the final 300m, the daughter of Captain Al was given rein and shot forward in eye-catching fashion, grabbing the lead and going away to win by 2.50 lengths.
The HSH Princess Charlene Maiden Plate for fillies and mares was sponsored to the tune of R250,000 by the princess. Prominent owner Chris van Niekerk got the first prize of R156,250.
Take My Word (8-1) ran well to get second – for the third time in a row – and Josi Di Nero (6-1) was a good third from a very wide draw. Eskimo Kisses, the 18-10 favourite, led briefly in the straight, but couldn’t match the finishing speed of the first three.
Interviewed afterwards, Tarry agreed that Victoria Paige was a progressive sort, noting that there was little in her favour on the day: the going was soft, she was a juvenile against experienced older horses, she was loaded early on debut and the maiden race weight conditions were against her. She carried 56kg with the older runners shouldering 60kg – less advantageous than full weight-for-age contests.
Ferraris said the way the daughter of Captain Al picked off her rivals and won going away boded well for the future.
Tarry was not quite able to repeat the feat in Race 4, the second HSH Maiden Plate, this one for all horses. But it wasn’t for want of trying.
His two runners, African Rock and Tree Tumbo, finished third and fourth. The latter is also a two-year-old carrying 56kg – and flew up from well back.
But this time R156,250 cheque went to the Wernars family as their three-year-old gelding Chipofftheoldblok caused a major upset in the first leg of the day’s Pick 6.
The son of Redoute’s Promise was returning from a five-month injury break and started at 50-1. But he and up-and-coming jockey Calvin Habib made a mockery of the popular value consensus in winning with authority, gaining the upper hand over 5-1 favourite Stockbridge in the final strides.
The 16-strong fields for the two Maiden Plates were drawn by ballot by Princess Charlene – from about 40 race entries for each.