What went wrong with General Franco? The R4 million supposed future superstar served up one of the shocks of the season when trailing in last at odds of 7-20 in the Suburban Spares Juvenile Plate at a stunned Kenilworth on Saturday – and seemingly everybody is still scratching their heads.
The Frankel colt took a strong hold early as Greg Cheyne settled him towards the rear but when the button was pressed he was as empty as an overdrawn bank account and his shocked rider reported: “It was a very slow run race, he came out well and I let him run into the bridle but I was beaten at the 600m mark. I thought he might find his feet late on but he didn’t. His work leading up to the race was no problem and he definitely didn’t run like he worked.”
The stipes immediately ordered a veterinary examination but the colt trotted out sound and showed no sign of anything wrong so Ernie Rodrigues had a specimen taken for analysis – not, he said, because he suspected foul play (he didn’t) but because he wanted to cover every eventuality and he asked Chris Snaith to report back on the colt’s condition at home.
“We will get him checked out by our vets on Monday morning,” said Jono Snaith. “It was a slow run race but he was never in it. He was the let-down of the day and he was hugely disappointing.”
The bright chestnut with the three white socks certainly looked fine beforehand and he walked calmly round the parade ring with that curious flexing of his front legs that was one of the characteristics of last month’s sensational debut.
After the race there were more theories among punters than parties in the general election. One of the most interesting came from a knowledgeable racegoer, the son of a former trainer, who pointed out that Tom Queally always allowed Frankel to pull his way to the front and run the opposition ragged.
This racegoer said that the famous horse’s son could have felt disappointed by being restrained and have gained the impression that he was not there to race but to settle at the back. He (the theorist) felt that things would have been very different had the General been allowed to stride on from the start. True, the favourite came from behind on debut but that was before he knew what racing was all about. If the vets can find nothing there could well be something in this.
But for the connections of Fearless Warrior, who came home in front under MJ Byleveld at the huge odds of 18-1, it was vindication of their faith after the colt had finished with only two behind him when second favourite for the Somerset.
Vaughan Marshall explained that things did not go according to his plans that day, adding: “I was bitterly disappointed and this has confirmed that the run was all wrong. This is a good horse but the Cape Nursery (June 8) might come too soon as he has now had two quick races.”
Cheyne, four winners at Fairview on Friday, landed three more here including two of the Snaith quartet but perhaps the most important was Boomps A Daisy in the Burchwood Hotel Handicap. The Ridgemont filly had run two cracking races under Anton Marcus here but disappointed both times Cheyne rode her at Durbanville.
She comfortably reverted to her previous Kenilworth form and Brett Crawford said: “I think it is that she is not yet mature enough to go round the turn – but I will try to keep her at Kenilworth for now.”
Morne Winnaar is making the most of the improved opportunities he has received in recent weeks and he added two more to his tally on the Glen Kotzen-trained Rock Spirit and 18-1 longshot Black Belt for Eric Sands.
The whip issue continues to raise its ugly head and Corne Orffer was fined R1 000 for hitting Wallis Simpson – runner-up in the Chris Gerber Memorial – more than the maximum permitted 12 times and Anthony Andrews on second-placed Crimea in race two was fined the same. This was his second offence since the rule was introduced ten days ago.
By Michael Clower