Anton Marcus’s party trick is to play down his ability but he doesn’t get the call to ride the best for nothing. He rarely makes a mistake, be it a maiden or a Grade I, and he had them all on a string at Turffontein yesterday in spite of riding what was probably the cream that included Frosted Gold In the Gr2 SA Nursery, Return Flight in the Gr2 Gerald Rosenberg, not to mention Twist Of Fate in the Gr2 KRA Guineas at Greyville on Friday night.
All were singing the praises of Hawwaam after putting the Gr1 Premier’s Champion Challenge field to the sword but in truth it was a below par field for a Grade 1 and it was a bloodless beheading.
Out in a flash, as is the Marcus trademark, Hawwaam was in the box seat in a matter of strides.
Fellow three-year-old Zillzaal tried gamely to stay with his rival in the straight, but Hawwaam had too much class and Zillzaal developed a speed wobble as he tried to keep up and was quickly out the back door. Stable companion Cascapedia was there to collect in the shallow end of the purse from Divine Odyssey and veteran Legal Eagle but they were four lengths adrift as Marcus geared down to the line.
Mike de Kock, when quizzed on future plans for his star colt, earmarked the Daily News 2000 and possibly the Rising Sun Gold Challenge in Champions Season for both Hawwaam and Soqrat, but was not drawn on any hard and fast plans.
De Kock obviously has reservations about bad draws at Greyville, intimating that Soqrat, unplaced in the Gr2 KRA Guineas on Friday night, was compromised by a wide gate.
Piere Strydom, still waiting for the Mauritian government bureaucracy to clear his work permit for the island, recently lamented his choice of rides. “I wasn’t even getting third choice,” he summised after winning The Oaks on Return Flight on Sean Tarry’s start filly. He was ‘jocked off’ the filly yesterday in the Gr2 Gerald Rosenberg Stakes, the ride going to Marcus, but whatever the circumstances, Strydom remains one of the greatest riders ever to grace a racing dock in the recent era.
Brett Crawford had Pacific Trader primed to perfection for the Gr1 Computaform Sprint and Strydom, canny as ever, tracked the pace and pounced when it counted.
Crawford commented beforehand that, “Pacific Trader is and out-and-out five-furlong horse,” but even over the quick Turffontein short-cut, Strydom judged the gallop from off the pace and ‘struck’ at just the right time to nab outsider Princess Rebel when it counted.
After the running of the first two races, disgruntled grooms staged a sit-in. Proceedings were delayed by an hour after a negotiated agreement defused de-fused the stand-off.
By Andrew Harrison