Bernard Fayd’Herbe, vowing to return with a bang, did just that at Kenilworth on Saturday when he won on his first ride back.
Concussion, or rather medical analysis of the need to give his system a break because of the risk of its long-term effects, may have sidelined him for three months but his mental faculties were as sharp as ever on the Andre Nel-trained Lady Lu in the opening maiden.
Punters didn’t give the filly a prayer, despite her jockey’s sky-high reputation, and allowed her to drift unbacked from 3-1 to 9-1 – but they were left wondering what had happened to their judgement after hearing Fayd’Herbe’s first-hand account of his.
“I jumped out and she was rushing but there was a strong tail wind,” he related. “So I brought her back a little and she started travelling underneath me. I was watching Richard Fourie on Linda Loves Lace in front of me. He was going easy fractions. I sent mine on perhaps too early but when she got going she really took off.”
He followed up two races later on Gold Medal for the Bass-Robinson stable and some of the owners for whom he won the Vodacom Durban July on Marinaresco two years ago. But apparently those three months off were no holiday for a man has spent the last 20 years keeping his frame at least 7kg below its natural weight.
“I had to do a lot of work,” he related. “Dougie Whyte from Hong Kong helped me, I went on a new diet and I rode the Equicizer every day.”
Justin Snaith and Richard Fourie chalked up their now almost expected treble – with Pinkerton (backed from 5-10 to an almost unbelievable 2-10), Fleeced and Pay Pay to take their tallies for the season to 43 and 41. But the rest of the card went to men for whom life must all too often seem more like Moodys (outlook negative but otherwise unchanged) than Springbok.
“I’ve had nothing but seconds – even other trainers are sending me pictures of my horses finishing second,” rued Paddy Kruyer after Louis Mxothwa on 16-1 shot Savea stopped the rot in the TAB Telebet Handicap, and he fished out his phone to show a shot of What A Flirt being beaten less than the thickness of a betting slip last Tuesday.
Hidden Strings, in the colours of breeder Willem Engelbrecht jnr and well handled by Keagan de Melo in the Interbet.co.za Handicap, was Greg Ennion’s first winner since June. “It’s been a tough few months,” said the trainer with some feeling. “I had a herpes virus in the yard – but the horses are starting to look good again and I have some lovely babies.”
Piet Steyn, most of whose glory days were a long time ago, took the bold step of turning out old stager Waiting For Rain for the second Saturday running in the Tellytrack.com Handicap and was rewarded with an 18-1 victory.
“Last week he got sandwiched on the fence,” the trainer related. “He came out of it well so I decided to run him. I don’t gallop mine much. If you haven’t got many – and I have 20 – you have to look after them.”
But in many ways the real unsung hero of this race was Grant Behr who bided his time to pounce fast and late, thwarting Fayd’Herbe of victory number three. “Nobody could have ridden the horse better,” said an admiring Steyn, and with justification.
Behr seldom attends the Tellytrack interviews and this was no exception. “I’ve been a bit down lately,” he said in explanation. “But maybe I should go to them.”
Certainly he should. They provide a real shop window and in racing self-promotion is one of the names of the game.
By Michael Clower