Jack Milner: Ronnie’s Candy caused an upset when she won the Grade 1 HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes for fillies and mares over 1600m at Turffontein on Saturday.
In a race superbly judged by Piere Strydom, the St John Gray-trained four-year-old came from last to beat Vistula by a length with 6-10 favourite Queen Supreme a neck back in third.
The victory on this 17-2 shot was Strydom’s third on the card.
Snow Palace took the field along from Magic School and Mill Queen. Queen Supreme sat midfield with Vistula just ahead of her while Ronnie’s Candy sat last having been dropped out from a wide draw.
Once in the straight Vistula moved up quickly down the inside to take the lead with Queen Supreme improving down the centre, but Strydom got a split down the inside and Ronnie’s Candy charged at them.She got the lead over the final 100m to win quite easily in the end.
“I thought we were racing for second,” said Strydom “I would have been quite happy to run second so this is a bonus.”
Speaking about his decision to drop his mount out at the start, Strydom said: “We had no choice really from a bad draw and there was a lot of pace and with this headwind, those tactics would help us.
“Luckily it wasn’t such a big field so even if I sat last I didn’t have to make up a lot. With this headwind she just took me into the field and I just managed to follow a couple of horses through and I got on top of them very quickly.
“It was just a matter of being patient, and obviously having a horse with ability.”
Assistant trainer John Vos complimented Strydom on his ride: “It takes top jockeys to win Grade 1s and it was a beautiful ride from Piere. St John’s over the moon.
“She’s always been a special filly. She can turn it on on her day.
“We did have a swing in the weights with Queen Supreme, and with Piere on top, you cannot discard your chances.”
At the presentation, a cheque for R100,000 was presented on behalf of HSH Princess Charlene which was used to bolster the stake money of the race from R325,000 to R425,000.
“With the stakes already so reduced we appreciate the extra money put into the stake by Princess Charlene,” said Strydom.