The boom horse taking on the form horse could turn this year’s Sun Met into an absolute thriller.
Mike de Kock trains Hawwaam, a son of Silvano, who he rates among the best horses he has trained. He has been the boom horse for the last year who kept getting his name into the press for conflicting reasons.
He is clearly a horse who knows how to win, as he showed when coming up trumps in his first three races before tasting defeat in the Gauteng Guineas when he got too far back from a wide draw and could only finish second.
He then romped to victory in the Grade 1 SA Classic but in the Grade 1 SA Derby he got away from his handlers in the parade ring and bounded – jockeyless – to the start.
He was withdrawn. He then won the Grade 1 Champion Challenge over 2000m at Turffontein followed by the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 at Greyville.
As a result, he started favourite for the Grade 1 Durban July but injured himself entering the starting stall and was withdrawn. He had a long rest and then came out to win a sprint at the Vaal before coming to Cape Town. He got off to the perfect start, winning his eighth race in the Grade 2 Premier Trophy at Kenilworth.
Then it all went wrong in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate. He started odds-on favourite but whether he was put off by the long 30-minute delay at the star as two horses were reshod and two, including Hawwaam, had to have their bridles replaced.
After leading early on he faded in the straight to finish fifth, behind Vardy, with Rainbow Bridge third. Asked whether anything has come to light after the running of the race, De Kock responded: “Nothing. They did not go fast enough for anything to go wrong. I’m happy with his prep, all’s good.” De Kock is content with Hawwaam’s No 12 draw.
“I’m happy not to be drawn on the rail. From where he is you’ve got to switch him off and let him run on. I’m delighted Anton doesn’t have to think about a thing because there is only one option from that draw.
“The problem with Hawwaam is once you set him alight, you don’t get him back.” But he’s too good to write off and he deserves a second chance, which will be his last in South Africa before he jets off to the UK.
The form horse is Vardy. Last year trainer Adam Marcus told anybody who would listen how good this son of Var really was and that he would be a brilliant four-year-old. His charge has won the Grade 1 Queen’s Plate and the Grade 2 Green Point Stakes, both over 1600m, with ease. He runs well for jockey Craig Zackey who will ride him once again.
One cannot fault his build-up for the Sun Met and if there are any chinks in Hawwaam’s armour, this gelding will expose them. “Vardy came through the Queen’s Plate very, very well,” said Marcus.
“He’s in a very good place mentally and physically. He’s had a wonderful preparation.” De Kock has the greatest respect for Vardy who he believes is a superb horse. “He didn’t get the credit he deserved for his last two wins, Vardy is the horse to beat in this race.”
Equally, Marcus has the same level of respect for Hawwaam. “Everyone looks at the race from their own perspective. Hawwaam’s record is incredible. He could easily bounce back to his best and beat everyone.”
Rainbow Bridge has done li le wrong in his warm-up, running third in both 1600m races behind Vardy. He will have Ryan Moore up so that will add to his chances. Twist Of Fate moved to the Marcus yard late last year after Joey Ramsden closed his stable and gave up training.
His first run saw him finish five lengths behind Hawwaam in the Premier Trophy, but he then managed to run fourth in the Queen’s Plate, finishing 1.25 lengths ahead of Hawwaam, which does indicate De Kock’s runner did perform below his ability
He was beaten only two lengths by Vardy and finished in front of horses I would never have dreamed of beating before. Whether he is better than Vardy, I don’t think so. But if he was to run out of the first four, I’d be disappointed.” One does not know what to expect from Horse Of The Year Do It Again.
He won three Grade 1 races last season but finished sixth behind Vardy in the Green Point Stakes and the Queen’s Plate. All sorts of excuses have been offered but nothing substantial that really explains the two disappointing displays.
Snaith is now saying Do It Again is back to his best so only the race will tell. One World seems to be at his best over 1600m and is likely to be fading out in the closing stages.
However, sometimes the “Cape crawl” kicks in and opens the door to horses with suspect staying power.