Two questions were answers at Greyville yesterday. Hawwaam is the best three-year-old in the country over a middle distance and it is almost a given that he will take his place in next month’s Vodacom Durban July.
Given the hype around Mike de Kock’s colt, it would have been a mighty let-down had he not landed the odds in the Gr1 Daily News 2000. But he did it with the minimum of fuss as he comfortably held off recent G2 KRA Guineas winner Twist Of Fate with the balance in another race.
There were fears before the race that Hawwaam’s suspect temperament may get the better of him in the preliminaries but he behaved like a gentleman although De Kock was granted permission for the colt to do one lap of the paddock before heading to the start.
“He’s a pretty straight forward horse,” said De Kock, “but he is a real man and likes to dominate. He gives you time to put the saddle on, time to get the jockey on but if you leave it too long, he can be difficult. He is a strong-minded horse and there are temperament issues.”
General expectations were that stable companion Atyaab would set the pace but that never materialised as Twist Of Fate went to the front with Anton Marcus sitting off the pace, Hawwaam keen to get on with it.
“The pace was just ordinary,’’ confirmed Marcus. The pair took up the challenge at the top of the straight but Marcus did not have to resort to the stick. “I kept the stick off him and just kept him as balanced as possible.”
“You have got to be impressed. Races like this are never a gimme. Twist Of Fate was only rated 4lbs inferior so it was a win full of merit. A couple of months down the line the world will be his oyster.”
A relieved De Kock said the race was always going to be a test. “You have to beat the best and the second best three-year-old around (Twist Of Fate) was going to test him today.”
“Nothing went well and he still came through. The plan was to go to the front today.”
De Kock heaped praise on Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum and his racing manager Angus Gold. “Sheik Hamdan is a massive asset to South African racing. All owners are important but Sheik Hamdan as been a staunch supporter, just frustrated by the current export protocols.”
De Kock confirmed that he had always intended to run Hawwaam in the Vodacom Durban July. “I was always happy to run the horse in the July – if it’s up to me the horse runs. It’s the most important race in South Africa but I must stress that it is up to the owners whether he runs or not.”
Twist Of Fate put up a cracking performance in second but found one too good for him on the day.
The Gr1 Woolvington 2000 proved to be something of an upset result as 11-1 chance Silvano’s Pride went to the front and never looked like getting caught although there were a few hard luck stories behind Justin Snaith’s filly.
Marcus lost his compass aboard favourite Front And Centre drifting across the entire width of the track to the inside rail causing a few runners to ease but finishing a clear second. He now faces a stewards inquiry.
“We have been looking for the right race,” said Snaith. “In her races the others always seemed to quicken past her. But everything came together today and I’m very proud that my horses always run to the line.
Silvano’s Pride is not among the Snaith nominations for the Vodacom Durban July, Oh Susanna withdrawn on Friday, but there is still one further supplementary stage so Silvano’s Pride may well still feature in the final field. Second declarations for the Vodacom Durban July are on Monday and will be accompanied by the final VDJ log while the final supplementary stage is on Tuesday, June 18.
Snaith has been relatively quiet so far this Champions Season but sounded a warning yesterday saying that this was now the sharp end of Champions Season and he was about to get serious.
By Andrew Harrison