A long held plan came to fruition at Turffontein Standside on Saturday when the Robbie and Shannon Hill-trained Camphoratus upset some big fish in the wfa HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes over 1600m and thus the stallion Byword, who now serves as a teaser, gained a first Grade 1 winner.
Robbie Hill is based at Summerveld but has been up at Randjesfontein since March 2 training just two horses, Camphoratus and Red Chesnut Road, for target races in Johannesburg.
He said, “When Camphoratus won the Flamboyant Stakes (on December 26 over 1600m at Greyville) we felt she was good enough to compete in the Empress Club and the plan was put in place.”
She was a 36/1 shot in the Flamboyant but Hill pointed out her previous bare form had not told the whole story.
He said, “She had a bad habit earlier in her career of messing around in the starting stalls. They have now begun accommodating her but prior to that she was not getting away on terms.”
After the Flamboyant the four-year-old filly ran a 2,80 length fifth in a Pinnacle event over 1500m at Scottsville on February 10.
She arrived in Johannesburg on the morning of the Grade 3 Acacia Handicap over 1600m at Turffontein Standside on March 2.
Hill said, “She ran not a bad race there.”
Then when she finished second in the Listed Jacaranda Handicap over 1800m at Turffontein Standside on March 30, carrying joint topweight of 57,5kg, it confirmed the Empress Club Stakes plan should go ahead.
Hill does not believe 1800m stretches her and said, “Gareth (Wright) sent her for home too soon in the Jacaranda, he made a mistake. My only instruction on Saturday was to sit and wait and not go too early.”
Wright followed the instruction to a tee. Camphoratus clearly had a ton in hand in the straight when held together in midfield. He pressed the button at the 400m mark and she then showed what Hill describes as her “unbelievable acceleration”. Wright had to switch her inward and she then became involved in a stirring dual with the narrow Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas runner up Running Brave. Camphoratus surged in the final strides to win by a neck.
She had been the third lowest rated horse in the field off a merit rating of 95 and had not surprising started at odds of 66/1.
Among the defeated in a star-studded field was the 119 merit rated reigning Equus Horse Of The Year Oh Susanna. The trip was short of her optimum and she could only stay on at one pace from a handy position to finish a 2,20 length fourth.
The Gauteng Fillies Guineas and Ipi Tombe winner Nafaayes, merit rated 107, was third and other beaten horses were the Graded-winning stars Celtic Sea, Fiorella, Fresnaye, Ghaalla, Cascapedia and Redberry Lane as well as last year’s narrow Empress Club runner up Al Danza.
Hill, who stood on the stands and said he had remained surprisingly calm as the drama unfolded, added, “She obviously relished the soft conditions and some others might not have liked it, but it was nice that the plan came together.”
In contradiction, Byword’s sire Peintre Celbre had relished fast ground when winning the 1997 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe by five lengths. However, he did also win a heavy ground Group 1. Byword’s only Group 1 win, in the Prince Of Wales Stakes over a mile and two furlongs at the Royal Ascot meeting, also came on fast ground, although he did manage two stakes wins on good to soft going.
Byword defeated none other than Twice Over in the Prince Of Wales but at stud in South Africa, starting in the same 2013/2014 season, their respective paths have followed divergent courses. Byword was originally with Rob Pickering’s Middlefield stud in the KZN Midlands but after one season he was transferred to Mauritzfontein Stud. Pickering felt that was the right move and still had high hopes for him. However, with just one decent horse in his first two crops it was soon apparent he was not going to make it in an ultra competitive environment where buyers expect early results. He was thus demoted to a role of teaser stallion at Wilgerbosdrift Stud. However, stud manager Guy Murdoch of Mauritzfontein said, “After yesterday’s Grade 1 we might have to reconsider.”
Camphoratus was bred by Pickering. She is out of the unraced Horse Chestnut mare Wild Camphor, whose only other foal, Scent Of The Tiger (Tiger Ridge), was a four-time winner.
Hill picked Camphoratus out at the BSA KZN Yearling Sale at Sibaya and said, “The chief reason I liked her was her beautifully big girth and she was also very well balanced.”
He bought her up for what has proved a bargain R50,000.
Camphoratus travelled home to Summerveld on Saturday night. Her obvious target SA Champions Season target is the Grade 1 wfa Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes. Her fine turn of foot is an asset at the tight Greyville circuit.
Meanwhile, Hill is preparing Red Chesnut Road for a crack at the Grade 1 Premier’s Champions Challenge over 2000m at Turffontein on May 4.
This horse was a top prospect as a two-year-old but has been plagued by injury since developing a bone sequestrem beneath the hock. A bone sequestrem is when a piece of dead bone detaches itself from the healthy bone.
“He is a hard horse to train,” admitted Hill.
However, the five-year-old Pathfork gelding proved he stays middle distances when “settling beautifully” and running second in the Listed Michael Roberts Handicap over 1750m last year and he later finished a decent fourth to Head Honcho in the umThombothi Stakes over 1950m.
Hill concluded, “If I can get him 100% right on the day he is a proper horse and will have a shout.”
By David Thiselton