The Andre Nel-trained Head Honcho began his transformation from average handicapper into a true Grade 1 class horse last season and the turning point was some advice given by Anton “Superman” Marcus.
Nel’s Summerveld assistant trainer Byron Foster said, “He always showed a lot of speed at home but Anton Marcus got off him after a 1600m event at Scottsville and said this horse needs ground. He hasn’t put a foot wrong since we have followed that advice.”
Marcus made that suggestion on Christmas Eve 2017 and since then the rangy Querari gelding has won six times in eight starts over distances from 1800m to 2200m. His stakes wins include the Listed Sledgehammer over 1800m, the Grade 3 Betting World 2200 and a highly impressive win in the Grade 2 WSB Premier Trophy over 1800m at Kenilworth.
Then he stepped up again when running a magnificent 0,95 length third from the front in the Sun Met, thus proving himself one of the best horses in the country.
The 122 merit rated five-year-old enjoyed a “nice break” after the Met and has been at Summerveld for about a month.
His chief SA Champions Season target will be the Vodacom Durban July and his build up into it will be via a Pinnacle Stakes race and the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge.
Foster said, “He has improved beyond what we thought and must be some sort of runner in the July. If the same front-running tactics are adopted Greyville will suit him with its short run in.”
He has certainly proved his liking for Greyville before as both the Sledgehammer and the BW 2200 were on the Greyville turf.
Foster said Head Honcho was a sound and tough horse. He looks set for a good campaign. The yard are a bit thin on SA Champions Season horses besides Head Honcho.
Kampala Kampari will be aimed at the WSB 1900 and it will be taken from there.
They have some regard for three-year-old Vikram and Red Shift has been doing well. This pair may be aimed at the Listed Thukela on July day.
He mentioned Q The Music as a tough handicapper who would be targeted at a poly feature.
Silver Rose was deliberately targeted at the Highland Night Cup, which he won over 2400m at Scottsville on Sunday, as the yard realised some of the other Champions Season stayers would not be at their best for the race. However, it is now going to be harder for him with the others having come on and his merit rating having risen.
The four-year-old Var filly Evelina has been bought to KZN but Foster admitted this sprinter to 1400m sort would need to make a big step up. The Poinsettia will be her starting point.
Foster said training at Summerveld had not been possible on Tuesday due to the rains but they had been able to use the poly yesterday (Wednesday).
By David Thiselton