Corrie Lensley might have a tiny training yard by Joburg standards, but not much else was tiny about the victory of his horse Alesian Chief in the Grade 3 Merchants at the postponed Summer Cup race meeting at Turffontein on Tuesday.
Lensley is a large chap; so are the horses’ owners; so were the smiles and jubilation in the winner’s circle. It was a big, heart-warming story and just what the South African racing industry needed in tough times.
Jockey Jarryd Penny might be diminutive and not the biggest name on the riding roster, but the way he grabbed a chance for big-race glory was immense. He rode a brilliant race on Alesian Chief, keeping the three-year-old colt rolling in front at the end of the famous old 1160m sprint – as challenges loomed up around him.
“Jissus, I nearly had a heart attack!” said one of the sizeable members of the sizeable group of owners. “Now it’s time to drink!” exclaimed another. “This is a proper, proper horse!” declaimed Corrie.
It was just one of many compelling TV moments on World Sports Betting presents the Gauteng Summer Cup day – which was moved to Tuesday afternoon after being washed out on Saturday.
A shock result, a KZN smash-and-grab, two objections, tearful winners and exciting finishes … it was a dream script for a game battling to turn around a run of rotten fortune.
And just to emphasise that local racing still has plenty of quality – and money – training titans Sean Tarry and Mike de Kock pulled off feature race victories with a couple of Drakenstein Stud-owned rising stars: Sound Of Warning in the Grade 3 Magnolia Handicap and Safe Passage in the Grade 3 Dingaans respectively.
The day’s Pick 6 pool topped R11 million, just short of the R12 million forecast for the Saturday meeting, but a tremendous total for a midweek race meeting.
De Kock was full of praise for S’Manga Khumalo’s riding in the Dingaans – a race that’s always been an important pointer to the coming Classics for three-year-olds. The former champion jockey timed his finish on Safe Passage (4-1) to perfection to collar long-time leader Red Saxon.
Sound Of Warning (6-1) had to survive an objection by the connections of second-placed Big Burn (5-2 favourite) in the 1160m Magnolia – after she hung out in the final 200m under Grant van Niekerk and came into brief contact with the warren Kennedy’s mount progressing fast up the outside rail.
In the second race, a Maiden Plate, 10-7 favourite Magnum P I was not so lucky, having the race taken away in the boardroom after a close-fought finish with Secret Link (6-1), the two combatants bouncing off each other in the final strides.
Earlier, punters had a rocky start when longshot Thunder Shower won the first race, a 1600m Maiden Plate, galloping strongly to get the better of heavily fancied duo of Angelsea (5-6 favourite) and Bellevarde.
Despite the apt name, Thunder Shower didn’t attract much popular support and started at 25-1.
After a moderate career start by the filly, the fitting of pacifiers by trainer Weiho Marwing seems to have worked the trick on her. Winning jockey Marco van Rensburg said the win was “not a complete surprise” as the team had seen “something to work with” with the daughter of Soft Falling Rain.
KwaZulu-Natal raider Donald McDonald pulled off a betting coup for his connections by winning Race 3, a 1600m Pinnacle Stakes. The son of Ideal World was backed in from odds in the teens at the weekend to 5-1 at the off.
Trainer Gavin van Zyl said afterwards he’d hoped to get ultra-consistent Donald McDonald into the Summer Cup line-up but didn’t make the cut. The clearly under-rated five-year-old gelding’s merit rating could get a sizeable upward shove after this comfortable win – which took his stats to six wins and six places from 12 starts.
The Grade 2 Ipi Tombe Stakes over 1600m was won impressively by Bold Fortune, trained by Stuart Pettigrew and ridden by Diego de Gouveia.