The Ferraris family has written a good bit of South African racing history and its youngest member, jockey Luke, added a sensational new chapter when winning the R1-million Grade 1 Cape Town Met on 6-1 shot Rainbow Bridge at Kenilworth on Saturday.
It was only on January 10 2021 that Luke graduated from apprentice to fully fledged rider, but the way he manoeuvred his way from stone-last position to a daring outside rails run and a 1.75-length win over 19-10 favourite Belgarion was the stuff of an ice-cool master of his craft.
Even trainer Eric Sands commented later that he had figured Rainbow Bridge was too far back to figure in the final shake-up, so started concentrating on his second runner, Golden Ducat – until that other set of red and white silks flashed up on the wide outside.
Sands said the absence of the usual rowdy, colourful Met crowd – thanks to lockdown lockout of all people bar stable staff and officials – might have worked in his favour. He was referring to the way Rainbow Bridge gets edgy and sweaty pre-race in front of a noisy throng.
But it might also have helped that there were no yelling fans ranged along the outside rail as the horse made his irresistible challenge along that paint.
Third place went to rank outsider Sovereign Spirit (100-1), with ever-reliable Do It Again (13-2) in fourth.
It was Rainbow Bridge’s second Met victory, the first coming in 2019. In 2020, the son of Ideal World was a head second to One World.
He has now won nine times in 21 starts, with a fourth (in 2018) and a sixth (2.75 lengths behind Belgarion in the 2020 Durban July) his worst showings.
Rainbow Bridge was among first to show from the 2,000m start, but Cirillo soon took the lead. There was a lot of concern about a lack of real pace among the 11 runners, but Cirillo eventually ensured a reasonable lick for the top-class field.
Silver Operator, Queen Supreme, Princess Calla, African Night, Sovereign Spirit, Golden Ducat, Belgarion, Do It Again and Rainbow Bridge made up the order as they swept by the 1,000m mark.
Into the straight, with 600m to go, Cirillo still held a two-length lead but challenges started coming on all sides. Do It Again switched out for a run while his Justin Snaith stablemate Belgarion forged forward up the inside.
Commentator Rouvaun Smit exclaimed that Rainbow Bridge was getting into the picture. But it wasn’t the TV picture. To the watching hundreds of thousands of fans at home, a narrowly focused lens made it look like Belgarion was galloping to victory.
Out of sight was the flying Rainbow Bridge – and as they swooped to the line he and his young pilot popped into view in a commanding lead.
Ferraris said afterwards he had dropped Rainbow Bridge out of the early pace as he was concerned about the horse’s propensity to over-race. At no stage was he worried, he said.
“Halfway around the bend he was last and like a lamb.”
His decision to steer so wide in the straight was partly dictated by the gelding’s habit of hanging out in the finish and partly by being blocked for a run.
“He was full of running and I always felt he could get there.”