Nastergal will continue to be campaigned over shorter distances after Greg Cheyne combined bluntness with enterprise to make most of the running in the 1 200m Champagne Stakes at Kenilworth on Saturday.
Candice Bass-Robinson, winning the race for the second year running, said: “We have been playing around with distances for this filly, and jockeys were coming back in saying she feels as if she wants 1 800m. But Greg said to me beforehand ‘Are you going to moan if I end up in front?’ When she comes back in the springtime we will keep her to the shorter trips, maximum a mile.”
The Duke Of Marmalade filly carries the same Ridgemont-Kieswetter colours that Run Fox Run would have borne had the ante-post odds-on shot not been withdrawn on account of the soft ground. The unbeaten A$420 000 (R4.1 million) buy will be aimed at a higher level next term.
“Run Fox Run has done everything so well and so easily, and I will keep her in sprints until she gets beaten,” said Brett Crawford who mentioned the Cape Flying Championship in the same breath. He told the Racegoer page earlier in the week that he would not run her on Saturday if the ground turned soft but one Kenilworth regular complained to me that the scratching did not appear on the sahorseracing.co.za website by the time of the 8.30am deadline, something he considered unfair on punters. But apparently procedures are not as straightforward as generally supposed.
“The rule is that you can scratch before 8.30am and after that you have to contact the stipes,” Crawford explained. “I walked the course on Friday but I knew there was a gallop at Kenilworth at 9.00am on Saturday and that Greg Cheyne (who had won on Run Fox Run last time) was riding in it. I wanted to get his feedback. When I did, I got on to the stipes to scratch her.”
Even then he had to make his case, citing penetrometer readings and explaining: “She is too valuable to risk.” The stipendiary board ruled that the request was “reasonable and acceptable” and Ernie Rodrigues informed the National Racing Bureau of the scratching at 9.52am.
Less satisfactory was that the Champagne and the Final Fling ended up with a combined total of only 13 runners and just three trainers – Bass-Robinson (five runners), Glen Kotzen and Justin Snaith (four each) – competing for R500 000 and black type. Nobody seemed able to come up with a realistic reason although Snaith said he should have had an extra runner in the Final Fling. “Instead I sent Red Ginger to PE for black type on Friday, they switched the race to the poly and she finished last. I made a mistake sending her there.”
He won the Final Fling for the fifth time, and the fourth in the last seven seasons, when Richard Fourie easily completed a treble on 7-20 shot Platinum Class to leave the Drakenstein team debating whether she should stay in training for a further season.
Yorktown, though, put up the performance of the day to come right away in the final furlong for a four-length win in the 1 200m maiden juvenile. The Ridgemont-Highlands Dynasty homebred is out of dual Grade 1 winner Overarching.
“He has the genes and that’s half the battle,” said Crawford. “He is still immature and a big baby but Anton Marcus said he did everything right.”
The phrase ‘gift of the gab’ could have been coined with Riaan van Reenen in mind and the former trainer remains an interviewer’s dream in his new role as assistant to Glen Puller, as he demonstrated to Grant Knowles after Miss D’Aray landed the last. But his non-stop prose can make life complicated for jockeys and Ryan Munger reported: “He gave me a whole book of instructions!”
By Michael Clower