Triple Crown winner Abashiri, who has not seen action since a poor run in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate this January, is the horse the father-son training partnership of Mike and Adam Azzie are banking on to give them their first win in Johannesburg’s premier horserace, the R2-million Gauteng Sansui Summer Cup.
They submitted four entries for the Grade 1 race, to be run over 2000m at Turffontein on Saturday 25 November, but Abashiri is the crown jewel among them.
Said Mike Azzie: “He’s doing exceptionally well. He’s grown tremendously in the last eight months. He’s a big, strong horse now and is working up a storm at home.”
Abashiri, a horse who has been surrounded by controversy since he became South Africa’s third Triple Crown winner last year, will probably make his comeback in a Pinnacle race in October. The Azzies have pencilled in the Victory Moon Stakes on 9 November as his final preparatory race.
“The Pinnacle will be a so run back, a no-pressure run,” said Azzie sen. “It’s a run designed to get back his desire to race and win again. I’d like him to just have fun. If he wins it will be great, but the Summer Cup is the race I really want him to win.”
The horse who wins the Summer Cup will stand a chance of a R1-million bonus if he goes on to collect the R5-million Sun Met trophy as well, but Azzie is not eying a Cape Town trip for his star.
“We chased bonuses with the Triple Crown and I’m not going to do that again with him,” said Azzie, who jets o to France today for a few weeks’ holiday. “If Abashiri comes through the Summer Cup well and if he’s up to it, we’ll take him down. I’ll let the horse tell me he’s good for it.”
The Azzies were put on the spot last weekend when they debuted top-class Argentinian import Hat Puntano. The winner of two Group 1 races as a two-year-old in his home country, he started a weak favourite for his very first run in South Africa, with Azzie sen. declaring beforehand, “There’s no pressure for him to win. We just want him to have a look-see and a nice experience.”
Sadly his hopes did not materialise and Hat Puntano was pulled out of the race by jockey Piere Strydom after his mount took an awkward stride at the 600m marker.
The veterinary surgeon could find nothing amiss, although he spread his right front shoe in running.
“Once they’d taken the shoe off in the unsaddling ring, he strode out fine,” said Azzie.
“In fact (the vet) Dale Wheeler said he looked like a dressage horse, his action was so beautiful.
“He ate up clean that night and put in a phenomenal workout on Tuesday morning.
“It’s just one of those runs you’ve got to write off.”