Everyone has the fire, but the champions know when to ignite the spark. How well those words of Indian author and spiritual master Dr Amit Ray apply to two young men and a four-year-old horse.
A year ago, trainer Adam Marcus was being spoken of as a nice young kid who some people hoped would do well somewhere down the line, jockey Craig Zackey was being described as an “okay young jockey who hadn’t trained on” and Vardy was a horse who failed to win a MR 80 Handicap at Kenilworth.
Go forward one year and Marcus has been described as a “next gen star”, Zackey has won two Grade 1 races in Cape Town and Vardy is unbeaten this season, and in the process defeated the best runners in the land in two consecutive races and is now a strong contender to win Saturday’s R3- million Sun Met over 2000m at Kenilworth in Cape Town.
Marcus will also saddle Twist Of Fate, who is at 14-1 following his fourth place in the Grade 1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate. “I’ve had limited opportunities to have horses good enough to compete in the big races so I don’t really feel that much pressure with regard to winning the Met,” said Marcus yesterday.
“I’ve had no pressure from the owners and for me, the most important thing is that he comes through the race sound and well. “The Met is not the be-all and end-all of his career. There is still so much in front of him, like the whole KwaZulu-Natal winter season. “But one thing I do know. We are going into the race with a happy horse.”
Marcus confirmed that the four-year-old son of Var came through his win in the Queen’s Plate “very, very well. “He’s in a very good place mentally and physically and he has had a wonderful preparation.”
There is a lot of discussion about the likely pace in the Met with many people feeling a slow pace would suit Vardy best. Marcus says the pace is not a concern for him.
“A quick pace makes it a fair race for everyone. We all would like a true-run race with no excuses. “If they go slowly it’s no concern because Vardy has an incredible turn of foot. I’ve instructed Craig that he must ride the race according to the pace.
There’s no such thing that a horse has to be ridden a certain way. “Quite honestly, if the Cape crawl kicks in, we would be quite happy to go up there and race handy.”
Marcus predicted a year ago we would only see the best of Vardy as a four-year-old. The gelding did have surgery after his win in the Winter Classic to have a small chip in his front knee removed.
“It’s always a risk to put a horse on an operating table but we felt it was best to have it removed, especially as he was maturing. “He came through well so that is all history. He also has a parrot mouth so we also had a problem finding him the right bit but through trial and error, that is also sorted out.”
Like the horse, Zackey also has had surgery to his upper thigh to sort out a problem and like Vardy, he too has come through it well. But he will also face a test on Saturday as he comes up against the big names like Anton Marcus, Piere Strydom, Bernard Fayd’Herbe and, of course, Ryan Moore.
“Vardy is quite quirky, he’s a real character and him Craig get on really well,” said Marcus.
“I’m a big believer in horse and jockey interaction. “My dad has been mentoring him. They’ve chatted after the races so he’s a young jockey with Basil Marcus’ mind behind him.
“The way he is riding for me I wouldn’t expect better from anyone else. Even in the maidens, he has been producing the goods for me so I’m happy to have him riding Vardy. “We’re a very hungry, young up-and-coming team. We want to win these races!”