Opensea to get off the mark

PUBLISHED: 18 June 2019

Kingsmead (Nkosi Hlophe)

David Payne, a top jockey in his youth before turning his hand to training, left an indelible mark on horse racing in South Africa with some of today’s top trainers and jockeys passing through his Summerveld yard before he upped stake and moved to Sydney, Australia where his talents were quickly recognised. He is currently one of the leading trainers based at Randwick.

All will tell you that Payne was a difficult man to work for, demanding dedication and perfection and if you were not up to the mark you were quickly shown the door. Duncan Howells and Peter Muscutt were two to pass the Payne school of training while on the riding front, Jeff Lloyd and Kevin Shea were graduates, to name but a few.

Kingsmead (Nkosi Hlophe)
Kingsmead (Nkosi Hlophe)

Payne was also one of the first trainers to have a black assistant in Opensea Mhlamvu, now long-time assistant to Gavin van Zyl after Payne’s departure.

Opensea will not be running in the fourth at Scottsville today, rather the horse named after him and fittingly trained by Van Zyl. The son of Pomodoro has not been out of the money since joining Van Zyl from the Highveld and was a close-up second when running on late behind Sovereign Spirit over a mile on today’s course. He goes 1950m for the first time and Warren Kennedy stays with the ride.

Dennis Bosch’s runner, What A Blast, was a length behind Opensea when they last met and with the worst of the draw that form is likely to be franked. A further threat could be the year older World Cruise. Frank Robinson’s charge is proven over ground and with Bernard Fayd’herbe in mustard form, World Cruise is a must for all exotics.

Born To Perform, the lightly raced son of former Vodacom Durban July winner Dancer’s Daughter, may not be as talented as his dam but he is no slouch and may yet prove himself in feature company. He has won two of his three starts, his defeat a narrow one from a wide draw to the useful GG’S Dynasty who lines up in the sixth.

Bosch has declared blinkers on Born To Perform and given his pedigree he should relish the step up in trip.

GG’S Dynasty is a diminutive son of the recently deceased champion sire Dynasty but what he lacks in stature he makes up for in heart as he showed with two narrow recent wins. He bids for a third on the bounce in the sixth and encouragingly, Anton Marcus has jumped ship from the consistent Collabro who – on paper anyway – should be able to turn the tables given that he is 5.5kg better off in the handicap and beaten less than a length by GG’S Dynasty when the two last met over course and distance.

Making his turf debut and a possible threat to both is The Master. Dennis Drier’s charge made a winning handicap debut, beating the older and in form Zanzibarian albeit narrowly. He has the best of the draw here and gets lumps of weight from the top two.

Winter Blues is another that has not been hampered by his diminutive size, having scored five wins for Louis Goosen, four of those on the trot. It will be a year, almost to the day, since his last win and he has dropped 12 pounds in the handicap since then. He now looks competitive again off his new mark, finishing less than a length behind Kingsmead over course and distance at the end of last month. He also takes a big drop in class and although he takes a corresponding rise in weight, he looks primed for a sixth win.

The last, a lowly fillies and mares handicap, could be lucky for some, but more likely a misery for most. It is a tricky race but Michael Roberts could hold the key in Be Happy. She showed good pace in the recent work riders’ race and prior to that was a close-up second on the Greyville poly. With the work rider replaced by champion jockey Lyle Hewitson, she should be good for an extra couple of lengths.

But the list of possible winners is a long one. Linear is the current luke-warm ante-post favourite at 9-2 with Be Happy and Starlight bracketed on 11-2.

By Andrew Harrison