Big ‘Al’ breaks his duck

PUBLISHED: 28 March 2019

Naoshima (Candiese Marnewick)

When Al Jackman stepped into the paddock for his first barrier trial at Scottsville, big, black and imposing, he attracted immediate attention. ‘Big, scopey colt who towered above his rivals in what was a smart looking field. Jumped slow and very green. Could take time to come to hand,’ was the comment on his trial as he trailed in way behind the pack.

Nearly six months down the line and gelded in the interim, he stepped out at Greyville yesterday with a row of duck eggs in his formline.

But Wendy Whitehead has persevered and with the aid of ‘horse whisper’ Glyn Redgrave, Al Jackman has slowly found his feet.

Naoshima (Candiese Marnewick)
Naoshima (Candiese Marnewick)

Although still green and forcing Stuart Randolph to earn his riding fee, he stuck to his guns to edge out Cassius Colt in a desperate finish.

“He’s got it this horse,” said Whitehead. “It’s his temperament. He gets to the races perfect but when he gets to the back he drips with sweat.

“He’s just very immature but he has found a character. He has matured and is coming out of his shell.”

It was not the strongest maiden fields but the step up to 1900m and according to Randolph, “the penny has not quite dropped yet,” there is still a future for owners Geoff Perkins, Mark Christensen and Michael Sinnema.

Third-placed Charlie McCreevy gave Mark Khan a torrid time, clipping heels and then running around like a drunk on his way home from the pub. That he managed third was something of a miracle.

It has taken some time for the penny to drop with apprentice Jason Gates but he appears to have finally cottoned on to the fact that his is not the only horse in the race.

Gates has a ton of ability and Louis Goosen, who takes no prisoners, is one trainer who has taken him under his wing. The partnership is bearing fruit as Gates rode a smart finish on the big gelding Di Mazzio in the second. Tracking the pace, Gates produce his mount with a perfectly time run and kept him hard at it to the line as he was challenged by a fast-closing So Var and Kingsmead, who certainly knew he had been in a race!

There is a wave of opposition to barrier trials, the general consensus being that they are a waste of time and money, but they do give some insight, especially to those who know what they are watching – and its generally not the ‘winner’.

A ‘solid quality filly. Went well without a push. One to follow,’ was the comment on Naoshima’s trial at Scottsville and it proved on the mark yesterday as Dennis Drier’s filly won well under Sean Veale.

Eric Buhr has been around for longer than he would probably care to remember but his orange and purple silks are a familiar part of KZN racing and Naoshima’s success marked his ninetieth winner.

In partnership with Buhr is the Wild Child Racing Syndicate many of whom were having their first winner after a disastrous start to their racehorse ownership, their first horse having got loose at Summerveld before her first outing, never to see a racecourse.

Drier appears to have high hopes for their replacement as the daughter of the once Drier-trained Master Of My Fate kicked clear in the first to win well.

Given Drier’s record with juveniles, it would not come as a surprise to see Naoshima’s name appear among the nominations for the Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship at Scottsville, May 25, come Champions Season.

Lyle Hewitson is making steady inroads into Anton Marcus’s lead in the jockey championship and edged another winner closer as he steered the diminutive Jamaican Bay to a decisive victory in the fourth for Doug Campbell.

Hewitson has been penciled in behind the name of Legal Eagle in the Gr1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes at Turffontein on Saturday with Marcus watching from Dubai where he is due to partner Majestic Mambo in the Gr1 Jebel Hatta over 1800m on the Meydan turf.

By Andrew Harrison