World class performance from Variety Club
PUBLISHED: May 5, 2014
Variety Club well and truly stamped himself as one of the best milers to ever be produced in South Africa with a stunning performance in yesterday’s Gr 1 HK$12million Champions Mile at Sha Tin in Hong Kong, where he annihilated a top class field by four lengths under regular pilot Anton Marcus.
This was the five-year-old Var entire’s first run for Mike de Kock and he became the first foreign horse in 14 runnings of this prestigious international event to emerge victorious.
Variety Club appeared to relish the return to turf, after two wins and a second on tapeta in Dubai, and this was likely a career best performance.
He showed his usual phenomenal gatespeed and that coupled with his high cruising speed saw him bounding into an early lead. He was soon joined by rank outsider Helene Spirit. The latter then took over, but Variety Club sat at his quarter in second without ever having to break his machine-like stride.
He was showing his usual signs of loving every minute of the race. Marcus brought him to the centre in the straight and he then quickened away from the pack and the massive crowd were soon embracing a new hero.
The hot favourite, the John Moore-trained Able Friend, who won the Gr 1 Hong Kong Classic Mile in January, didn’t have the best passage, having been caught wide early and then having to come from some way back under Joao “Magic” Moreira. The field concertinaed turning for home and he overtook most of them, but made no impression on Variety Club, who was pulling further clear at the line.
Variety Club was nurtured from a two-year-old into a twice Equus Horse of The Year by top Cape trainer Joey Ramsden, for whom he won 16 races, including four Gr 1s, four Gr 2s and four Gr 3s.
He couldn’t have got off to a better start with De Kock and might be the horse to convert the champion trainer’s long held dream of winning a European or North American Gr 1.
Variety Club’s critics have said that he is one dimensional and was gifted his races in South Africa by never being taken on in front by horses that were also referred to as inferior. However, his best assets, his tremendous gatespeed and his ability to quicken off his high cruising speed, were shown yesterday to be just as effective against world class opposition.
The class of the opposition is probably reflected in his amazing winning odds of 12-1 on the Hong Kong tote. The critics have finally been silenced.
Owner Markus Jooste and his racing manager Derek Brugman were on course to cheer him home and so was his breeder, Anton Shepherd of Beaumont Stud.[/expand]
Beauty you can depend on
PUBLISHED: May 2, 2014
The Independent On Saturday Gr 2 Drill Hall Stakes to be run on the Champions Season’s opening meeting at Greyville tomorrow will be an intriguing contest with class up against specialist 1 400m speed, while the Gr 2 KRA Guineas and KRA Fillies Guineas have attracted some potential superstars.
Beach Beauty never lets her fans down and her early speed will help her overcome her wide draw in the defence of her Drill Hall crown. Dennis Drier’s stable jockey Sean Cormack has opted for her ahead of Master Of My Fate and she should be cherry ripe having run on nicely in her Champions Season pipe opener in the Poinsettia over 1 200m.
Master Of My Fate will find this a touch sharp, but he is full of class and his six wins on the trot before an unlucky defeat in the J&B Met included a commanding victory over 1 450m, so he can’t be discounted. He is running fresh, but the Drier yard always have them fit enough.
Capetown Noir started off this season with a facile victory in the Matchem Stakes over this trip at the equally tight Durbanville track, but the brilliant miler has drawn wide and on this right handed track he does appear to take a while to get going.
His stablemate and last year’s runner up Ice Machine runs well fresh, but has unfortunately drawn wide. He showed improvement after joining Dean Kannemeyer’s yard during the summer and his tremendous turn of foot makes him suited to this course and distance.
Here Comes Billy has caught the eye with his powerful finishing speed over sprints and he stays this trip. From a good draw this classy sort makes plenty of appeal.
The Charles Laird-trained Distinguished has shown tremendous improvement and as a 1 400m specialist this is his Champions Season mission. However, he is a front-running type and the race is full of classy closers, so he might be swamped before the line.
His stablemate Rio Carnival has caught the eye with his tremendous finishing speed in his two return runs over 1 200m and 1 600m from a life threatening injury. However, he has drawn widest of all.
Royal Zulu Warrior has a fantastic turn of foot and this could well be his optimum trip, so from pole position he is a big player.
Silvano’s Jet, Jet Explorer, Punta Arenas and No Worries would prefer further and are likely using this race as a pipe opener.
It is highly competitive but the ever reliable Beach Beauty gets the nod ahead of Here Comes Billy, Capetown Noir, Royal Zulu Warrior and Rio Carnival.
In The Fast Lane and Captain America look to be a ready made double in the KRA Guineas races.
In The Fast Lane was unlucky in her last race and if it is ignored her form is very strong. She is distance suited, drawn in pole and had a look at the course last week.
Athina looks ideally distance suited and has a fine turn of foot, so will be the chief threat from a good draw.
Eventual Angel has unfortunately drawn wide as this filly looks to be full of potential and can make the step up in class.
Not Sulking has a good turn of foot and will enjoy this course and distance.
Lanner Falcon is not far behind In The Fast lane, but has drawn wide.
Brett Crawford’s Champions Season contenders are running well fresh, so Maybe Yes is a definite contender from a plum draw.
Santa Carolina will enjoy the drying ground and is a dark horse alongside Goldie Coast and Sea Cat.
The selection is In The Fast Lane from Athina, Eventual Angel, Not Sulking and Maybe Yes.
Captain America looks ideally suited to this course and distance on racecourse evidence, although it will be his first run on a right handed course and it will also be the first time he has seen the track.
Diamond King is a lot better than his last run and from a good draw could be the main danger.
The tough as nails filly Arcetri Pink has zest for her racing and from a good draw should be right there.
Chestnut’s Rocket is a classy front runner, but from a wide draw he might have to be used up early.
Top Jet will be coming into his own, while Copybook has come on from his last run.
It will still be a touch on the sharp side for both Legislate and Speed Rocket, while Chekilli’s stamina capacity will be stretched.
Bezanova might be revitalised after a return to the coast and will need to be to feature here.
The selection is Captain America from Diamond King, Arcetri Pink, Chestnut’s Rocket and Top Jet.[/expand]
Pick 6 carryovers
PUBLISHED: May 2, 2014
Fairview Net Pick 6 C/Over R224 270 on Friday 02 May 2014 Race 3 @ 14h00.
Estimated Pool R900 000.
Greyville Net Pick 6 C/Over R1 200 000 on Saturday 03 May 2014 Race 4 @ 13h30.
Estimated Pool R3.8MILLION
Kenilworth Net Pick 6 C/Over R500 000 on Sunday 04 May 2014 Race 4 @ 14h05.
Estimated Pool R2.1MILLION[/expand]
Master Of My Fate suffers possible career-ending injury
PUBLISHED: May 2, 2014
The top class Champions Season contender Master Of My Fate is likely out of racing for good having pulled up from his workout at Summerveld on Tuesday with a serious tendon injury.
Devastated trainer Dennis Drier said that all of the big Jet Master colt’s pace work had been completed ahead of his Champions Season pipe opener in the GR 2 Drill Hall Stakes on Saturday and he was having a routine workout on the sand when the injury occurred.
Drier said, “He must have just put a foot in the wrong place and pulled a tendon. When vet Manfred Rohwer looked at it he said that it looked as if someone had taken a gunshot to it.
The tendon had a clean hole the size of a bullet right through the middle.
“He doesn’t think he will be able to race again. This is a tragedy for everybody in the yard and also of course for the owners, the Papageorgiou family.
“Unfortunately these big horses like him with huge actions that have so much speed just need to put a foot wrong on any track and a lot can go wrong. To have a horse that you can place in features is what you build your hopes on and a lot of planning and preparation goes into choosing their races. It’s a punch below the belt to all of us.”
Master Of My Fate was identified by the late Andrew Papageorgiou as the only horse he wanted at the 2011 National Yearling Sale. He was so determined to get the Varsfontein-bred colt that he refused to lie down and eventually secured him for R3 million. After Andrew’s passing the horse was raced in his son Nico’s colours and was close to the heart of his widow Annetjie.
Master Of My Fate only started his career in May last year as a late three-year-old as he had to be box rested for five months as a two-year-old after splitting a hoof.
He lost on debut but then reeled off six wins on the trot including the Gr 2 Calulo Services Premier Trophy and the Gr 2 Glorious Goodwood Peninsula Handicap, both over 1800m at Kenilworth. He was then an unlucky fifth as the 5-2 favourite in the J&B Met as he was continually bumped and bored for the first 300m or so and forced to drop too far back, before making up plenty of ground in the straight.
On the bright side Master Of My Fate looks to have a fine future at stud as he was not only a top class racehorse, but has a superb pedigree and in conformation he closely resembles his magnificent father, the late great Jet Master, who is on course to claiming his seventh general sires title this season.
Meanwhile, the Drier-trained KRA Fillies Guineas hopeful Eventual Angel injured herself in her box and has also been scratched from tomorrow’s Greyville racemeeting.
Drier said, “It is not a serious injury, but the Guineas only comes around once a year and it was her main mission.”[/expand]
Big test awaiting Variety Club
PUBLISHED: May 2, 2014
Variety Club is already a multiple Group 1 winner, has twice been crowned South African Horse of the Year and earlier this year dazzled Dubai with a comprehensive defeat of some notably talented milers to take the G2 Godolphin Mile with some ease. But on Sunday, the five-year-old will face the stiffest task of his storied career in the G1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin racecourse in Hong Kong.
“I think this horse is one of the best milers in the world but when you come to the Hong Kong milers, they are the best in the world,” said Trevor Brown, assistant trainer to Mike de Kock. “You only have to look at their record in this race. You’ve got to respect them. They grind and then they kick.”
Sunday’s race will be the five-year-old’s first start for De Kock, a three-time winner of International G1 races in Hong Kong, but the Champions Mile is not among them. The trainer has had five previous shots at the race with Musir’s third-place in 2011 being his best result. Then again, Hong Kong-trained horses have won each of the nine editions since the race was opened to overseas runners. Indeed, Musir’s effort matched the best ever placing by an overseas horse in the contest.
Brown looked on contentedly yesterday morning as Variety Club completed his final serious piece of work on the turf course. The Var horse finished off an 800m gallop in 50.9s (28.3, 22.6) under big-race pilot Anton Marcus.
“I’m happy with his work this morning – Anton seemed very happy,” said Brown, “we didn’t want anything too over the top, just a little piece of work, a nice gallop and that’s what we got. He’s in good shape. We were a little concerned that he had to travel here by himself, later than his two stablemates, last week, but he’s taken it well, he’s a true professional.”
The experienced Marcus, who was originally best known as the younger brother of former Hong Kong champion jockey Basil Marcus, has forged a reputation as a man for the big occasion with numerous G1 triumphs and five champion jockey titles in South Africa. He has also ridden in Hong Kong, chalking up a total of 144 winners in six racing seasons. It is he who will have to negotiate a route to victory from gate 12 of 14, a berth wider than most would prefer.
“He generally goes forward but he has been ridden off the pace and won at home in South Africa. We’ll have a think about what we might do. I’ll leave that up to Anton, he knows the horse,” said Brown.
Variety Club faces 13 rivals in a top-class renewal that also features the leading local contenders Able Friend, Glorious Days, Gold-Fun and last year’s victor Dan Excel, as well as the talented overseas raiders, the three-time G1 winner Gordon Lord Byron, Mshawish from France and the Japanese challenger Meiner Lacrima.
Meanwhile, trainer John Moore believes Designs On Rome’s QE II Cup win confirms his long-held belief that stablemate Able Friend is an international Group One horse in waiting – but Sunday’s Champions Mile might be the only test of that viewpoint for this campaign.
Moore revealed yesterday that tackling the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 17 is a long shot even if the Derby runner-up gives him a fifth straight Champions Mile.
Moore’s sole focus now is on the Group One Champions Mile. “With Able Friend, we are talking about another horse which is in the same bracket as Designs On Rome,” Moore said. “Everybody was saying, ‘You had Designs On Rome peaking for Derby Day, can you keep him going until the QE II Cup?’
“And Designs On Rome has come out and run an even better race than in the Derby: if we can take any guide on that you’d have to think this horse is going into the Champions Mile even fitter, even more focused and even more physically prepared.
“He’s the one to beat.”
Moore’s Champions Mile tally is at five, including the last four in a row with Able One (2007, 2010), Xtension (2011, 2012) and Dan Excel (2013).
Although he rates Able Friend as his main hope, he was not dismissing the chances of the somewhat forgotten Dan Excel. “He’s as genuine as the day is long. But Able Friend is definitely the better chance – he’s got tonnes of ability and there’s still more to come.”
Moore identified South Africa’s Variety Club as the main danger. “I just have to hope that Variety Club doesn’t bring his best,” he said. – HKJC.com[/expand]