The General Franco bubble burst as explosively and expensively as anything done by his controversial namesake in the 1 400m handicap at a damp Durbanville on Saturday.
The R4 million Frankel colt started a warm 17-10 favourite and, just as his trainer predicted, he was settled at the back. The commentator got excited when he made a bit of progress early in the straight but Richard Fourie was already, and ominously, niggling. The chestnut’s effort, such as it was, proved to be short-lived and fourth of five- over three lengths behind the winner – was the best he could manage.
Fourie had no excuses – “the handicapper got him” – and, while Michelle Rix, Harold Crawford and Spectra Force’s owners were celebrating, Justin Snaith was reflecting on the favourite’s high rating.
“I have been trying to prove the handicappers right, doing everything I can and using all my skill to build the horse up so that he could compete in a race like this but giving him 102 for a maiden …..” For once words failed even Justin Snaith.
To be fair to the handicappers they weren’t the only ones who got it wrong. Most of the media – and none more so than this writer – were bowled over by the colt’s debut win to such an extent that they refused to countenance that his next, stone-last, run could be nearer the real General Franco.
Snaith had better luck with Stopalltheclocks (Fourie) in the first and with the Greg Cheyne-ridden Mister Vargus in the Tellytrack.com Handicap – “Mister Vargus is one of the very few three-year-olds I’ve got that the handicappers haven’t absolutely taken to pieces.”
The rest of the day belonged to Glen Kotzen and Morne Winnaar. The Woodhill trainer landed a four-timer with Winnaar on all bar Point Of Sale on whom Cheyne shrugged aside the foot injury he incurred in the pens (“I will worry about that tomorrow – let’s get through today first”).
Kotzen said: “Point Of Sale is out of a full sister to Big City Life and her next run will be in the Western Cape Fillies Championship – she will love the extra trip – while Follow The Star is a super filly with loads of ability. She is out of a Galileo mare so we are hoping ten furlongs will be fine for her.”
Winnaar won several races leading from the off last season and securing a reluctant Kotzen’s approval for this tactic (“I don’t like horses going to the front but the jock said we should let him stride”) proved decisive on Hubble in the last with the 9-1 chance scoring by a staggering nine lengths.
Vaughan Marshall brought off the biggest priced winner of the day when Anthony Andrews scored on Crusade’s Promise at 20-1 in the Interbet.co.za Handicap.
By Michael Clower