Candice Bass-Robinson is now beginning to focus on the SA Champions Season in KZN after enjoying one of the best days of her career on Sun Met day, where she sent out two Grade 1 winners, Clouds Unfold and Russet Air.
She won the Vodacom Durban July in her first season as a licensed trainer, becoming the first female trainer in history to win the country’s premier horse race.
Sun Met day enhanced her reputation for big race preparation skills and also amplified how well she does with the progeny of former stable star What A Winter.
Both Clouds Unfold, who defended her crown in the Grade 1 Bidvest Majorca Stakes over 1600m, and Russet Air, who won the Grade 1 Cape Flying Championship, are by What A Winter.
Bass-Robinson said most of her SA Champions Season campaigners would be prepared at her home base of Milnerton before their first KZN races. They would be transported to KZN shortly before the race and then stay at Summerveld until the completion of their campaigns.
This approach worked with Marinaresco in 2016, when still trained by Candice’s father Mike, as he ran in the Cape winter series before running second in the July and then winning the Grade 1 Champions Cup.
The following season he arrived in Durban shortly before winning the Drill Hall Stakes and two runs later won the July.
Last season the same approach worked with Santa Clara, who was prepared in Cape Town before running a narrow second in the Umzimkhulu Stakes on April 7 and then winning the KRA Fillies Guineas on Champions Season opening night, May 3.
Freedom Charter was prepared in the same manner and won her first race in KZN on May 3 at Greyville, the Grade 3 Poinsettia Stakes.
Bass-Robinson said, “They are used to Milnerton and it is not easy when the training tracks are completely different.”
She has booked 15 boxes at Summerveld for the winter but is not sure yet exactly which horses will be going.
However, Clouds Unfold will definitely be one of them.
The star filly’s campaign will start on June 13 at Greyville in either the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge over 1600m or the Grade 2 Tibouchina over 1400m. Her chief target is the Grade 1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes over 1600m on Vodacom Durban July day.
Clouds Unfold was set to be one of the stars of the SA Champions Season last year but unfortunately broke loose one day at Summerveld and fell.
Bass-Robinson said, “She chipped the point of her hip. It was a serious injury and she spent three months doing nothing.”
However, the Majorca, which she won with authority, proved she has fully recovered.
Russet Air might avoid KZN and be aimed at the Grade 1 Computaform Sprint at Turffontein.
He will first take in the Grade 2 Diadem over 1200m on February 22 at Kenilworth where he will carry a 2kg Grade 1 penalty.
Bass-Robinson said, “He doesn’t really enjoy running around a turn and I think the Turffontein track will suit him.”
The horses being looked at to try and make it a fifth Bass-trained Vodacom Durban July winner overall (Mike won three and Candice has won one) are More Magic, Sovereign Spirit and Majestic Mozart.
Bass-Robinson spoke of her success with What A Winter’s progeny.
She said, “I enjoy training them as they have good temperaments, they respond and do well and when you get a good one you get a really good one. We have bought a number because he throws nice specimens, they look like horses that will win. His best is still coming in the next two seasons because he is now not just getting numbers he is getting good quality mares too.”
Dutch Philip, Magical Wonderland and Snow Report are among the other good What A Winters that Bass-Robinson has trained. All three are Graded winners.
What A Winter won the Cape Flying Championship twice and was an Equus Champion Sprinter twice.
However, as Clouds Unfold proves, he doesn’t only throw pure sprinters.
Clouds Unfold is out of a Montjeu mare, which might explain it, or otherwise she has been influenced by What A Winter’s damsire Ahanoora, who like her, was a chestnut.
Ahonoora was a sprinter who progressed from handicapping as a three-year-old to Group company as a four-year-old and his biggest success was when being awarded the Group 1 William Hill Sprint Championship (The Nunthorpe) over five furlongs at York after an objection.
However, he exceeded all expectations at stud and proved capable of siring top class performers at a wide range of distances. He proved to be one of the most successful and important representatives of the Byerley Turk Line in the modern era and his best progeny include Epsom Derby winner Dr Devious, the Group 1-winning sprinter and successful sire Indian Ridge and he is damsire of the like of New Approach, Cape Cross, Azeri. Leroidesanimaux and Acclamation.
By David Thiselton