It will be a long time before the bookmakers recall the name Al Bragga without a warm glow spreading through their systems and in the first at Kenilworth on Saturday a massive gamble on the newcomer went spectacularly wrong.
Mike Stewart, who trains Red Rum-style on the beach at Noordhoek, may have a Summer Cup to his name but he operates at bargain basement level and scores with well-backed first timers about as often as Justin Snaith has a winner starting at 30-1.
The money poured on Andre Hauptfleisch’s homebred as if there was no tomorrow and the Captain Al colt’s price tumbled from 15-2 to 19-10 favourite. “It’s not my money but I don’t think he will get beaten,” said the trainer.
Yet the favourite lost ground at the start and never got into it, finishing with only one behind him and over 20 lengths off the winner Psychedelic. “He had shown plenty at home but Donovan Dillon said it was the ground and that the horse hated every minute of it,” said a mystified and bitterly disappointed Stewart. “I have worked Al Bragga in the wet, but in ground that was possibly not as wet as it is here.”
It was Kate Meiring and Juan Batt who solved the mystery. The course vets examined the colt on the instructions of the stipes and found him to be lame on his off-fore.
The stipes had a busy time and they also quizzed Snaith about the dramatic improvement of the 30-1 winner. “He showed a lot of pace in his first two runs but at the end he died,” the trainer reported. “Now, with gelding and a little bit more fitness, he managed to finish the race – but I was surprised.”
Less so by the two Drakenstein homebred winners sired by the ill-fated Kingsbarns – Queensbarns who looked a bit special when storming home five lengths clear under Robert Khathi and Casino Queen who completed a double for the eloquent Sandile Mbhele, rider of Psychedelic and now on the 49-winner mark.
But the one that stood out, by winning distance at least, was Cane Lime ‘N Soda who went clear over a furlong out under M.J. Byleveld in the Betting World Maiden to score by more than eight lengths and give Vaughan Marshall good reason to celebrate his 68th birthday a day early.
“I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but he was bloody impressive and he looks to have a bit of a future,” said Robert Bloomberg who shares ownership with Ron Chetty.
If ever an owner deserved a medal for perseverance it is Alfie Baum whose Duntoche came good at the age of five and at the 18th time of asking in the Tab Telebet Maiden. She had been placed on half her starts so she has kept producing a return and the Paul Reeves-trained mare never hesitated when Morne Winnaar asked her to lead from the start.
We hear a lot about small trainers and the problems they face so it is good to be able to report that Harold Crawford is pulling away from that troubled category. Assistant Michelle Rix, who has turned things round for her father, revealed after Orferd’s Flash’s victory under Ossie Noach that the one-time single figure stable now has 30 horses plus ten two-year-olds to come.
Brett Crawford, no relation, was responsible for three of the seven runners in the 2 000m handicap, and had a one-two with Principessa and Magic Mary. But it was last-race Reenan who kept the punters happy by winning the finale with a Glen Puller horse for the third time in the last six Kenilworth meetings. Ready To Rumble came home at 25-1 under Brandon May to give part-owner George Eveleigh the birthday present he wanted most of all.
By Michael Clower