“You could say that his last run in the Rising Sun Gold Challenge was a bit disappointing but I don’t know that it was.” Eric Sands is assessing Rainbow Bridge’s chances of becoming the first since Pocket Power 11 years ago to win the Met and the Vodacom Durban July in the same season.
“He ran into a pocket that day and he came off second best. But, if it had opened up for him, would he have passed Do It Again?” Sands pauses, but no direct answer to his own question is forthcoming. “That said, Do It Again is a top miler and – after what happened to my horse – I was happy with where he finished (third, beaten a fast-diminishing length and three-quarters).”
Rainbow Bridge is the first horse the 63-year-old Milnerton trainer has run in the July since Money Bags in 2006. Ridden by Jeff Lloyd, he started one of the most fancied at 8-1 but hung badly throughout and finished with only one behind him. Four years earlier Grand Jete, carrying golfer Lee Westwood’s colours, was almost as strongly fancied but he was cramped for galloping room and Karl Neisius was forced to ease losing lengths.
Sands, understandably, prefers to concentrate on the present and goes back no more than a few weeks. “Everything has gone well since the Gold Challenge and I couldn’t have asked for a better prep. Indeed all the boxes are now ticked.
“His gallop last Thursday was good and, although the time didn’t matter to me, it was quite fast for a horse that was not being chased along. I don’t know much about the companion – he was loaned to me – but Rainbow Bridge did exactly what we wanted which was to have it easy from the mile and then to quicken at the top of the straight. Gavin said he gave him a kick and the horse was gone – just galloped through his hands.”
It is in the 6-1 third favourite’s favour that much of his excessive nervousness has gone. “From that point of view he has matured a lot and he travelled well going to Greyville last Thursday. He came down off the float with a bit of sweat on him but it was nothing like it used to be.”
Fourth on Tellina five years ago is the closest Gavin Lerena has come in eight previous July rides but the former champion is leaving no stone unturned in his bid to land the great prize on Saturday. “Gavin was riding him the whole of the previous week and he is back this week to do pacework. He gets on well with the horse and he will ride him when we do the final workout tomorrow (Thursday).”
And the owner? Mike Rattray bought Rainbow Bridge specifically to try to achieve his lifetime ambition of winning the July. The octogenarian former Greyville chairman has had two seconds – most recently with Yard-Arm, beaten three-quarters of a length by Dynasty in 2003, while Jagged Ice went under by little more than half a length when third four years later, and in 2012 Solo Traveller (fifth) was unlucky.
“Mike is very positive,” says the trainer admiringly. “We speak every day and I can see where his heart lies. It will be wonderful if we can bring all this to fruition on Saturday.”
By Michael Clower