Emotions rule on Classic Day

Gimme A Nother remains unbeaten after sensational Fillies Classic victory.

Classic Day at Turffontein on Saturday had all the makings of a splendid racing occasion, and it lived up to those expectations.

It had everything – excitement, tears of joy, tears of disappointment, delight, champions stamping their authority – and even a little hailstorm thrown in to cool down the sultry conditions.

Whether it is a large stable or a small one, the thrill of winning a Grade 1 race is matchless, and both Mike de Kock and Robyn Klaasen basked in the glory of victory in the Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic and TAB SA Classic respectively.

De Kock got off the mark first as Gimme A Nother, ridden by JP van der Merwe, captured the SA Fillies Classic. The three-year-old daughter of Gimmethegreenlight looked the standout bet of the day and was sent off a 3-10 favourite.

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While she did hit a flat spot shortly after turning into the straight, once Van der Merwe asked for an effort she took off and stormed to a 4.25-length victory over stablemate Silver Sanctuary (11-2), to extend her unbeaten record to six.

Third place went to Let’s Go Now (50-1) with Bavarian Beauty (14-1) in fourth.

“I was very happy with my position, was never under pressure and when I got her into the straight, I gave her her head early so she could get going but I looked up to see the leaders were getting away from us,” said Van der Merwe.

“I panicked a little because I know how good she is, so then I just showed her the whip and I think I gave her a little tap behind and as I gave her the tap the response was instant.

“I put the stick down and then I rode a confident race again.”

Whether or not she will go for the Wilgerbosdrift Bridget Oppenheimer SA Oaks, the third leg of the Wilgerbosdrift Triple Tiara, on 6 April is still to be decided because the Empress Club Stakes is run on the same card.

“Without being demeaning to the Oaks, the Empress Club is a Grade 1 race and perhaps with Gimme A Nother we should stick to the Grade 1 races,” said De Kock. “But we will discuss it and once we make a final decision we will make it public.”

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Klaasen’s moment in the sun arrived a race later as Dingaans winner Purple Pitcher (10-1) turned around his Gauteng Guineas defeat to Sandringham Summit to claim the SA Classic, holding off the 63-100 favourite by 0.75 lengths. Third place went to William Iron Arm (7-1) with Pure Predator (66-1) running a cracker to finish in fourth place, beaten just two lengths.

“What an amazing horse he is to have,” said a delighted but highly emotional Klaasen. “The Classic was always his goal.

“Kabelo just knows what to do with him, no instructions were given, and he always gets the best out of the horse.”

Purple Pitcher was drawn No 1 and Matsunyane had him out in a flash and took him to the lead. “I was hoping to follow through one or two others but nobody went past me, so I decided to stay in front rather than break my horse’s stride.

“I know I’ve won on him from the front over this distance so when I got that in my head I actually rode him very confidently. “I know he’s a gutsy horse and he will always fight to the line.”

Klaasen said she was not concerned when she saw him in the lead. “He’s got a reserve tank that only he knows how to use.”

She also confirmed he will be going for the Grade 1 SA Derby on 6 April.

Matsunyane burst on to the scene last year when he won the Hollywoodbets Durban July on Winchester Mansion and he has now added a second Grade 1 victory to his tally.

“I always said that after I won the July, probably my feeling would not be the same.

“But today’s actually a special feeling as well as being my second Grade 1 win, and also my 50th winner of the season.”

Gavin Lerena, who rode Sandringham Summit, said he felt his mount would win easily with 200m to go. “But as we came close to the finish he changed legs, and that was the end of him.”

After that the rain arrived which resulted in a delay to the meeting but when they returned, Main Defender (28-10) handed trainer Tony Peter his third of four wins on the day. Coming from off the pace, Main Defender ran down Dave The King (8-1) and Princess Calla (18-10) to capture the Grade 1 Wilgerbosdrift HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes over 1600m.

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Many pundits believed the Pathfork gelding would not see out 1600m and even Peter was wondering why he put Main Defender into such a strong Horse Chestnut field. To make matters worse the three-year-old threw his head down as the start was effected and jockey Calvin Habib found himself further back than he had planned while Piere Strydom sent Dave The King to the front with favourite Princess Calla racing in second spot.

“It was a little bit messy early on but he was switched off. The pace was on and I just had to bide my time and wait,” said Habib. “Past the 400 and 300 there was nothing really to pull me through and I could see Piere was sort of on empty legs and I thought if ever there was a time to go it was now.

“When I asked him, he gave it to me so well.

“What a win from him!”

Peter had earlier won the Storm Bird Stakes and Ruffian Stakes for fillies, both Listed events for two-year-olds over 1000m, with Pistol Pete and Almond Sea respectively. The stable also capped off the day with a win from Judgment Day in Race 10. All four were ridden by Habib.

It was also a red-letter day for former champion jockey Mark Khan who made his first runner as a trainer a winning one, capturing Race 4 aboard 20-1 shot Sea Shanty which was ridden with determination by Ryan Munger.

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