The progeny of the late Soft Falling Rain proved their father was going to be a great loss last season and they now appear to be blossoming as three-year-olds.
Last weekend Soft Falling Rain’s daughter Gin Fizz excelled against older horses and this weekend his son Donderweer stole the show.
This big Paul Matchett-trained Fanie Bronkhorst-owned gelding had a hard task in his race, a Progress Plate over 1200m, in just his third career start. He faced the like of Grade 1-winner Eden Roc, Grade 2-winning filly Cockney Pride and other useful sorts, although as a one-time winner he did receive 6kg from Eden Roc. He opened at 20/1 but looked a picture in the preliminaries and shortened into 11/1.
Ridden by Jarryd Penny, he showed good pace from draw three and took the lead. However, Cockney Pride, carrying just half-a-kilogram more than him, was still under the hands when cruising to his quarters in the straight. But then Donderweer showed himself to be a useful prospect, quickening and using his big action and big heart to keep the filly at bay. The Pecan Hill Stud-bred gelding won by three-quarters-of-a-length. Dublin Quays and Informative were third and fourth respectively and Eden Roc was 3, 25 lengths back in fifth.
Donderweer has scope for further improvement and another encouraging point is that the filly Gin Fizz, who is similarly speedy, had enjoyed the step up to 1450m the previous weekend.
She pulled early in the Grade 2 Joburg Spring Fillies and Mares Challenge but thereafter relished the good pace and in the end was only beaten a quarter-of-a-length by the highly regarded four-year-old Vistula.
Donderweer won his second career start well over 1000m on the Vaal Classic track on September 26. He showed good speed, a fine turn of foot and plenty of resolve to see off the Captain Of All gelding Captain Hindsight.
Jockey Devin Habib called him “well above average” in the post-race interview.
Bronkhorst added he had always shown good work at home and believed he could “go on from here”, although he revealed he did not have “the best legs.” He also revealed how he was named. He said the Soft Falling Rain’s are the opposite of what his name suggests, they are “like thunderstorms.”
On Saturday Donderweer’s maiden win was franked in the first race on the card over 1450m, won by Bouncing Tigger, who had finished a 6,25 length third in the September 26 Maiden.
The champion freshman sire last season was Captain Of All with 14 winners of 16 races but Soft Falling Rain also had 14 individual winners and they won 17 races but they did not accumulate as much stakes.
Soft Falling Rain’s percentage of winners to runners was 40% while Vercingetorix’s 13 winners were at a percentage of 41,9% and Captain Of All’s were at 36.8%.
This season Soft Falling Rain has had six winners of seven races and his winners to runners percentage is 18.2%, the same as Captain Of All’s, but it is still early days and they are some way behind the new boom sire on the block Vercingetorix, who is the leading sire of three-year-olds this season Vercingetorix’s 12 winners of 17 races this season have come at a winners to runners percentage of 31.6%.
Soft Falling Rain has produced one stakes winner to date, the Grade 2 Debutante Stakes winner Montreal Mist, while Gin Fizz is multiple stakes placed and the colt Alramz has been twice stakes placed.
Soft Falling Rain’s second crop sold well and 22 lots fetched an average of R334,535 at session one of the National Yearling Sales.
He will have three full crops.
Both Soft Falling Rain and Vercingetorix were trained by Mike De Kock, another feather in the cap for the South Africa’s most internationally celebrated trainer.
By David Thiselton