It wasn’t until the morning of the J&B Met, run at Kenilworth on Saturday, that a decision on the jockey arrangements for Smart Call, the only filly in this year’s renewal, was made.
Injury to regular pilot Weichong Marwing meant that he would be unable to honour his commitment on the Alec Laird inmate and in the days leading up to the big race there was no clear answer as to who would deputise for the 2 000m contest.
In the end the honour fell to JP van der Merwe, who does most of his riding in Johannesburg, given that he was in town for another trainer and had a relationship with the filly having worked her on a number of occasions.
As the 38th running of the Grade One contest played out it was Piere Strydom who went out and set the pace on Legislate, one of the pre-race favourites, and had Legal Eagle, who jumped as the favourite with Anton Marcus in the irons, on its outside.
As the field hit the home straight it was Legislate who made the first move and it looked like the Justin Snaith inmate would cap a brilliant day for the stable after they claimed the first six races on the card but their hopes faded fairly quickly.
At the 300m mark, Marcus had yet to pull the stick on Legal Eagle, who had won the Queen’s Plate earlier this month. and the signs were ominous for the bookmakers with the favourite full of running.
That is until Van der Merwe flashed up and took the race by the scruff of the neck. By the time he hit the winning post there was daylight between Smart Call and the rest of the field with Legal Eagle staying on for second while Captain America and Light the Lights ran on late to fill the minor places.
The victory, in the famous silks of the Oppenheimer family, means that Smart Call has now won four races in the row and her second Grade One race in as many outings after her success in the Paddock Stakes at the same venue earlier this month.
As far as her career goes, Smart Call has now won seven races in her 16 outings and has only failed to earn a stake cheque on two occasions. This victory has also increased her paddock value exponentially once she retires to the breeding shed.