Feature race form is ignored at your peril, especially when the trainer thinks that it’s worth the effort to travel and take on the best.
Lady Legend got the worst of the draw in sticky going when taking on most of the best fillies on the Highveld in the Starling Stakes but that did not deter Wayne Badenhorst. Although not returning with a cheque, Lady Legend did give an indication that she belonged in that company and the 10-1 on offer at Hollywoodbets Greyville yesterday was something of a steal.
An outside draw may have been a concern but Gareth Wright quickly had his mount up handy and Lady Legend kept running to hold the attentions of race favourite Mitra Music who was unable to peg her rival back over the final furlong.
Lady Legend was the first leg of a Badenhorst double, although Bordeaux was a lot harder to find – the colt paying R97 for a win on the tote.
The improvement on a modest debut was attributed to the addition of blinkers. “He was a hard ride,” confirmed Wright which was clear to all as the rider was forced to keep his mount hard to his task.
All the money was for Trip To Africa in the second and it proved on the mark. Duncan Howells had always thought highly of the gelding but who had plenty of issues as a young horse. “He was a tall, immature horse who needed to grow into himself.”
Anton Marcus had no hesitation in taking Trip To Africa up with the lead and they kept firing all the way to the line to win rather comfortably. It was the second winner for the owners who had cashed in with High Voltage last Wednesday.
In the first, the money came in spades for Lady Of Lutetia but things didn’t work out as planned as she took a knock out of the gate and arrived too late as odds-on favourite Ode was hard-pressed to hold off the attentions of Lady Charlotte.
Seasoned trainer Pat Lunn, one of KZN’s greats with the likes of Model Man and Northern Princess among many other truly smart horses, is now KZN assistant to Johan Janse van Vuuren. Not the soundest of fillies, Ode was in good hands and put her soundness issues behind her.
Warren Kennedy is well on his way to his first National Jockey Championship with a 17% winning strike rate from over 500 mounts, and all though his expected century did not materialise with Lady Of Lutetia in the first, he did not have much longer to wait as 10-1 chance Skollie buried a few more exotic bet tickets in the fourth.
Drawn up Marriott Road on debut, he made the necessary improvement with a fine win. “I thought he would need a mile, plus,” commented Kennedy confirmed by Gareth van Zyl. “I had him in a mile but he drew badly so took the better option of a good draw over 1400m.”
It proved an inspired decision.
Pearl Of Asia, off the track for 270 days after landing something of a coup on debut, followed up with a smart victory in the sixth. It was a competitive field and Mr Fitz looked to have the race at his mercy before Pearl Of Asia slipped through on the inside rail to snatch the decision giving Gareth Wright his third of the afternoon riding for Robbie and Shannon Hill.
Calvary was an inspired gamble in the seventh and apprentice Jabu Jacobs made all, in the process keeping out of trouble.
Second-placed Socrates ducked badly under pressure and before Donovan Dillon was able to straighten him up, Hey Boy and Winter Blues were compromised.
Gary Rich, who has a small string of less than 20 horses at his Ashburton yard, is way under rated as a trainer. He has a 15% strike rate from just 27 starts and Clouds Of Witness gave him his fifth win of the season and can put him well and truly on the map.
Billy Jacobson set a modest early gallop, made his move just before the turn, and kept the gelding rolling to the line. Clouds Of Witness was challenged from all sides but refused to submit.
The son of Master Of My Fate has filled out and matured and barring accidents, should not stop here.
By Andrew Harrison