Golden Ducat put himself into the Vodacom Durban July betting at 25-1, and his remarkable dam into the record books, when realising his long-held potential after being backed from 16-1 to 10-1 in the ARF Commemorative Cape Derby at Kenilworth on Saturday.
Halfway To Heaven’s first three foals have now all won Grade 1 races – Rainbow Bridge and Hawwaam are the other two – and there is going to be some interest in the next one when the Silvano colt comes into the ring at the National Yearling Sale in April!
The Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein breeding operations are already entitled to take a bow but Saturday’s 10-1 win was also a triumph for Eric Sands who learned an invaluable amount about the complex mental make-up of the family when he trained Halfway to Heaven and won the 2013 Prix Du Cap with her.
It was his decision to geld Golden Ducat in November and to bring him back almost under the radar. “We had to geld him because he was getting impossible and I have won the Derby before by avoiding features with an immature horse,” he explained after greeting his third winner of the race following Jungle Warrior back in 1988 and Grande Jete in 2001.
It was the third Cape Town Grade 1 of the season for Craig Zackey – “Golden Ducat pulled me through the field without me pressing the button and he has a turn of foot as well,” Zackey enthused. “He still looks around but the day he puts his head down and puts it all in you are going to see a really good horse.”
An improving three-year-old, almost certainly still ahead of the handicapper, is what July punters dream about but, before you start comparing the pre-nomination prices, it would be prudent to wait until he is confirmed an intended runner – and that is not the case at the moment.
“I am going to discuss things with Mary Slack, Steven and Jessica Jell as well as with Jehan Malherbe,” said Sands, “and only then will we decide what we should do.”
The stipes provided an interesting footnote to Saturday’s race with their report that Anton Marcus had accepted the mount on Golden Ducat as well as on Cane Lime ‘N Soda who finished only seventh. Seemingly Marcus decided he should remain loyal to Robert Bloomberg and Ron Chetty but he was fined R1 000 by the stipes plus the same amount for exceeding the whip limit. Bernard Fayd’Herbe, fourth on Parterre, was fined R2 500 for the latter offence.
Kasimir has a busy Durban campaign ahead of him after confirming his champion sprinter status by repeating last year’s win in the Khaya Stables Diadem Stakes – but by God he had to fight for it.
Chimichuri Run threw down the gauntlet on his outer (Gavin Lerena: “He quickened when I asked him to and he fought all the way to the line”) while Aldo Domeyer drove Russet Air up the rails with all the intent and determination of a man possessed. “You always think you are going to get there and I had a great run”).
But Richard Fourie kept asking even when defeat was staring him in the face like a black-framed mirror, and his mount unhesitatingly answered every call. “l know he looked beaten but this horse has a secret weapon – he’s got heart. Also he is game, a true champion and an exceptional 1 200m horse.”
Justin Snaith, winning the race for the third successive season, added: “Kasimir has had a light season – just three races – so I will try and make up for it in Durban and have him a little busier than I might otherwise have done.”
Snaith also brought off a 40-1 shock with the Fayd’Herbe-ridden Crown Towers in the Selangor Jet Master but the puzzle of the day was Front And Centre’s running in the Vasco Da Gama Prix Du Cap. The favourite showed little interest leaving the pens – even when niggled at and pushed along – and for much of the seven furlongs she showed every sign that racing no longer held much appeal. Yet in the closing stages she ran on to finish an encouraging second.
“She didn’t muster any gate speed,” said Marcus. “But it was a better run than last time so I have got to be happy.”
Ridgemont and Brett Crawford still won the race with second string Pretty Young Thing (the first Group winner for Jackson) under an enterprising ride from Greg Cheyne.
BLOB The Asian Racing Conference delegates seemed most impressed with South African racing in general, and Kenilworth in particular, as they returned to their hotels in a fleet of chauffeur-driven Mercedes. An afternoon in the prestigious Peninsula Room undoubtedly helped but they appeared to be much taken with the racing, the crowds and all the attractions laid on for the public.
And it wasn’t only the ARC who were impressed. David Nagle, after leading in Kasimir with wife Diane, enthused: “Well done Kenilworth for the show they have put on.”
By Michael Clower