Aldo Domeyer had the finest day of his racing career at Kenilworth on Saturday and it proved his standard of professionalism and horsemanship has sharpened to a genuinely world class level.
Domeyer’s three big wins comprised two Grade 1s as well as the joint richest race in South Africa and he came from off the pace with perfectly timed runs in all three of them.
His successful stint in Hong Kong played a part in raising his game and he said, “When I got to Hong Kong there were things I thought I knew but soon learnt there were points I needed to sharpen up on. You don’t really think about it or notice the improvement, you make adjustments, certain points click and without really realising it you’ve taken the next step.”
With the skills upgrade also came composure.
He said, “My father said to me on Friday evening, ‘Are you nervous?'” and I replied ‘No, I don’t get nervous anymore’. I used to get anxious about what might work out and what might not, but not anymore. I think it is just down to life experience and constantly being on the big stage. In Hong Kong everything happens at a high tempo and I have consequently calmed down and become a lot more composed. The composure helps you to slow things down a lot. To have more time makes a huge difference in any sport.”
Domeyer’s win in the CTS 1200 was a particularly emotional moment as the winner Invidia is trained by Ashley Fortune, the wife of his father Andrew Fortune. It happened in sad circumstances too as Andrew lost his beloved mother just two weeks ago.
Aldo and Andrew had agreed on a plan for the race in the build up. He said, “We agreed this horse needs to be ridden with confidence.” However, it was only Aldo’s professional composure which kept this plan intact.
He explained, “The horses were winning from the front and when I got to the parade ring my father suggested we should maybe change the plan. I just smiled at him. He then said, ‘Listen to me, the course is running quickly!’ The more he said it the more I just smiled at him. I didn’t want to have my judgement clouded and change the initial plan we had both agreed on.”
Domeyer had been given a tremendous feel by Invidia when riding him work earlier in the week and had made an instant decision to not sit on him again before race day.
He said, “I wanted that last feeling he gave me in my memory.”
He continued, “He was on his toes in the parade ring, which worried me, but my father just told me to give him some love. I patted him and stroked him as I got up and, it was amazing, he eased down instantly.”
Domeyer gave him a good warm up at the start and the horse then “told him” he was ready when he stopped trotting and relaxed.
Domeyer stuck to the original plan. A few of the other jockeys were aware of the conditions, so went up handy, and this worked in his favour.
He said, “In races like this it is best to ride for a place and if the horse is good enough he can go through and win.”
Invidia was switched to the outside for a run and passed the other four still in contention to win by 0,75 lengths from Cartel Captain.
Later, Domeyer went into the Grade 1 Cape Flying Championship believing he had a chance on the Candice Bass-Robinson-trained What A Winter gelding Russet Air.
He said, “He had a solid record and had built up into a nice, big horse and was improving.”
Russet Air’s previous start had given Domeyer confidence he would be cherry ripe for Met day.
He made a split second decision in the race on Saturday to stick to the rail having noticed Morne Winnaar was alone on the rail ahead of him.
He said, “Morne is always able to keep horses going for a long time so I knew he would give me a tow to where I needed. I knew I wasn’t on the best horse so I waited for the big horses in the pack to challenge each other and hoped they would falter.”
The jockeys of the big guns had a lot of respect for each other, so engaged quite early and the effort soon told. It was the moment Domeyer had waited for and he pounced. Russet Air flew up on the inside rail from near last and got up to beat Bold Respect by a shorthead. Domeyer was particularly confident ahead of the Grade 1 Bidvest Majorca over 1600m as he knew the defending champion, the Bass-Robinson-trained What A Winter filly Clouds Unfold, had been given the perfect preparation. Furthermore, she was now “boxing over her own territory” i.e. a mile.
Domeyer’s confidence soared when he felt Clouds Unfold “gliding” in the running. He said, “Not many horse can do that. It is a feeling of a flowing stride, movement of authority. I knew then I would be able to wait as long as I wanted. I think I even sat behind a horse at the 200m mark. Then I saw Celtic Sea going and I went and knew I would get her as Clouds Unfold has a big heart.”
The classy filly powered through to beat the champion Celtic Sea by 0,30 lengths. Domeyer later got the best out of Twist Of Fate in the big one, the Sun Met, finishing fourth. Domeyer has come a long way since winning the Sun Met in 2013 as an unheralded rider on the rank outsider Martial Eagle. That might well have been the pivotal moment of his career so it was fitting his greatest day to date happened at the same meeting.
By David Thiselton