The finish of the Tabonline.co.za Handicap at Kenilworth yesterday would have done credit to any of the scrums in the Rugby World Cup with horses and jockeys being dangerously bounced against each other as if they were made of rubber.
Aqua Bolt was first past the post but he continuously drifted right into the path of those trying to close on him, particularly second-placed Jephthah. What was even more surprising was that the Andre Nel-trained “winner” was hanging into the whip. Normally horses drift away from it.
One of the stipes promptly lodged an objection on behalf of both M.J. Byleveld’s mount and third-placed Brave Tiger. To nobody’s great surprise this was quickly upheld with Jephthah declared the winner, Brave Tiger promoted to second and Aqua Bolt demoted to third. His rider Anthony Andrews did the right thing by having his whip in his right hand but the stipes felt he should have done more to minimise the interference and so he faces a disciplinary hearing.
You might think that a racehorse trainer has a charmed life, paid to go out into the fresh air while the commuter faces living nightmares in the traffic as he battles his (and her) way to work, and is then treated like a celebrity on the racecourse. Mike Robinson revealed that things are very different in real life and that the worrying insecurities of the existence can take years off you.
After Bernard Fayd’Herbe had got up close home on Wendy Hartley’s Happy Wanderer in the 1 200m maiden to give the Philippi trainer his first winner since that glorious treble two months earlier, Robinson said: “The treble feels like a year ago and I was getting worried. The horses were well, their coats were shining and they were all working like bombs but I was starting to doubt myself.”
He won’t now – at least not for a few weeks – but perhaps he could take lessons from Greg Ennion who has suffered plenty worse and learnt, not only to live with it, but how to bounce back and he struck with Etienne Braun’s R75 000 buy Winter Tango in the first.
Ennion said: “The horse was unlucky in his last two starts. In the most recent one he went a furlong too soon and in the previous race he got squeezed out. But he is improving all the time.”
Racing will not switch to the summer course until next month. Nothing unusual about that you might think – it’s the same every year – but Glen Kotzen yesterday queried the established practice.
He said: “It’s summer now so why aren’t we using the summer course? What we are doing, by not using it, is throwing the punter off. Saturday’s Concorde Cup will be completely different over the longer run-in when we come to the Cape Guineas. I know it means using the course more but so be it.”
Course manager Dean Diedericks answered: “This is a question that often comes up but the fact is that the summer course does not recover as well and this is a lot do with the soil temperatures. The extra month that we have on the winter course is a huge help to the summer one.”
By Michael Clower