VDJ gets the green light

PUBLISHED: 29 June 2020

Got The Greenlight (Candiese Lenferna)

Given the rampant rise in Covid-19 infections, the chances of next month’s Vodacom Durban July being run in front of a full house are almost non-existent – such is the pity.

What the lock-down has necessitated is a revamped SA Champions Season programme and Hollywoodbets Greyville dished up a smorgasbord of potential VDJ winners today, giving students of form much to chew on before the big race.

Got The Greenlight was victorious in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 with Joey Soma issuing a warning; “Don’t forget that there is a race coming up at the end of July,” his parting shot in his post-race interview after his charge had kept his clean sheet at the course with a thoroughly deserved win.

Got The Greenlight (Candiese Lenferna)
Got The Greenlight (Candiese Lenferna)

Rainbow Bridge turned in a smashing front-running performance to land the Grade 1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge and in doing so set himself up for another crack at the Vodacom Durban July.

Do It Again is showing signs of finding his best form in time to defend his VDJ title and although not quickening behind Rainbow Bridge he was staying on stoutly which augurs well for the big race.

Vardy turned in a tremendous performance, turning for home last and making up lengths in the straight, and Adam Marcus will be well please with what he saw.

Eric Sands has done a marvellous job with Rainbow Bridge although it was left to Peter Muscutt to put the finishing touches to the gelding with Sands marooned in Cape Town.

Cirillo, second in this race last year was the expected pacemaker but he was never able to get to the front as Rainbow Bridge took a hold. “It wasn’t our plan to go to the front,” said Sands, “but there is no use fighting them.”

Warren Kennedy, who was an early booking for this race and the VDJ, let Rainbow Bridge stride in front and although a little keen his mount was not over-doing it. Anton Marcus kept close tabs on Rainbow Bridge and had last year’s winner Do It Again in the box seat with Vardy bringing up the rear of the seven-horse field.

“It wasn’t by design (to go to the front) but to let him come out and be happy and no one really committed,” said Kennedy.

“I thought he would come out a bit fresh not having run for a while but he came out wanting to run a bit so I let him get there in his own time and he enjoyed it.

“He needed it and it was a bit of pace work.”

Got The Greenlight came from the clouds in the Grade 1 SA Derby over the testing Turffontein 2450m, but came up empty in the last 100m, so the 2000m of the Daily News was right up his alley. With the track running fast, Bernard Fayd’herbe, just recently returned from injury, had the front runners in his sights from the jump and was quick to challenge pacemaker Pardre Pio in the chase for home. It was always a given that Got The Greenlight would make up the ground although Fayd’herbe was never going to let him forget that he was in a race.

Summer Pudding (JC Photographics)
Summer Pudding (JC Photographics)

Golden Ducat travelled wide into the straight, making his run along with Got The Greenlight but it took a little time for him to start up his engine and only got going when the race for the lead was all but over, finishing a short-head behind Padre Pio who stayed on gamely for second.

“He’s a special horse, he’s such a professional,” said Fayd’herbe of Got The Greenlight. “Going through the 1400 I was smiling to myself. I saw Warren (Golden Ducat) moving up on my outside and I knew I had the race. It panned out just the way I thought it would.”

One who will not be contesting the VDJ is Summer Pudding who is destined for a well-deserved rest. She has had a testing three-year-old campaign, unbeaten in six starts and winning all three legs of the Triple Tiara, so one would have thought that the Grade 1 Woolavington may have been a bridge too far.

Paul Peter was also in two minds whether to run the filly but was prompted by Stephen Jell to let her take her chances if she came along the right way. “I was oohing and aahing but Stephen said if she was alright, to run her.”

Summer Pudding looked under pressure a long way from home but she rallied superbly in the straight to reel in arch rival Lady Of Steel and hold a challenge from Driving Miss Daisy.

Kennedy kept niggling at his mount throughout the race and when Lady Of Steel pinched a lead at the top of the straight she looked to have the race in the bag. But Kennedy switched out for a clear run to the line and Summer Pudding responded. “She never travelled with me the whole race and she does hit a flat spot,” said Kennedy. “But she always does that. At the 400 I thought maybe Bernard’s horse (Lady Of Steel) had me.

“But in a bun fight you can bet your life on her, she won’t get beat,” commented Kennedy, fresh from victory aboard Rainbow Bridge.

“She’s a special, lovely filly. She just doesn’t know how to get beaten,” confirmed Peter.

By Andrew Harrison