Matthew The King is crowned on debut

PUBLISHED: 23 March 2020

greg ennion

Matthew The King could be Langerman-bound after making an impressive- albeit poignant – debut at a near-empty Durbanville on Saturday.

M. J. Byleveld’s mount, nibbled at from 12-1 to 10-1, was the first runner for 2014 Triple Crown winner Louis The King and the colt swept to the front over a furlong out, drawing away comfortably to beat 2-1 favourite Sh Boom by more than two lengths.

Greg Ennion said: “I had expected him to run very well even though he had only been on the grass twice, the first time just to have a look and the second to go a half-pace. Then I heard that Sh Boom was unbeatable so I took a step back and told the owner to just have places on the horse.”

greg ennion
Greg Ennion

Asked if the 1 500m Langerman on June 27 would be a possibility, the Milnerton trainer said: “Absolutely. He has a heart like a lion and he is definitely going to get a mile. His father won over 2 450m and his mother (Changing Heart who Ennion trained) won over 1 400m.”

This win meant a lot for Terry and Annabel Andrews who stand Louis The King at their Sorrento Stud and even more for owner Rocky Warby and his family. Their tragic story was related by Charl Pretorius in his Turf Talk newsletter only two days before the race. Son Matthew was born with heart problems and had to have two transplants, one at the age of eight and the second when he was 20, hence the name Changing Heart. Sadly he died six years ago at the age of 23. Saturday’s winner will ensure that be brings a lump to collective throats whenever he runs.

This was the first behind-closed-doors meeting to be run in Cape Town. “It’s an absolute ghost town,” declared Justin Snaith. “And there are no TVs anywhere bar the one in the weighing room.”

But that didn’t stop the dual champion trainer landing a quick double with Captain’s Ransom and Double Reward to take him just ten short of his 16th consecutive century.

Suzanne Viljoen’s newcomer Captain’s Ransom was particularly impressive. When Keagan de Melo pressed the button the unconsidered 16-1 shot took off like a rocket leaving Cape Canaveral, and she covered the final furlong nearly 10kph faster than anything else. “I was very surprised,” said Snaith. “I thought she would be a bit green and would need further while the favourite (Fiftyshadesdarker) looked unbeatable on form.”

Owners were barred (as were the racing press) but Al Wahed’s owner David Curran travelled to the course and took up position in the trees on the other side of the fence. The only snag was that he was unable to tell who had won when Richard Fourie’s mount was involved in a three-way photo for the 1 000m handicap. He had to rely on a call from Mike Stewart who deserves considerable credit for keeping the gelding’s enthusiasm. – the eight-year-old was giving three years to the rest of the field and set a new class record. “He is a bit like me,” said the Noordhoek trainer. ”We are both old staggerers!”

There was no sauna so Craig Zackey was unable to get within striking distance of 53.5kg in the 2 400m handicap. Anthony Andrews proved a more than capable substitute on Winter Shadow and 35 minutes later Zackey delivered Al’s My Daddy late to decisively complete a quick double for Adam Marcus with his only two runners.

Uncle Anton was also on the mark on the Brett Crawford-trained Heaven’s Embrace in the 2000m handicap while De Melo sent Eric Sands home happy by landing the last on Midnight Badger.

By Michael Clower