paul matchettPaul Matchett
(Sporting Post)

charl pretoriusCharl Pretorius FreeracerAnother week closer to the Emperors Palace Ready to Run Sale and its associated R1.25 million Cup, and another series of scintillating performances from prospective candidates for the big race.

Just as we were beginning to believe the field for South Africa’s 4th richest prize was starting to settle into something of a known entity, FENERBAHCE emerged from the shadows of Gary Alexander’s shedrow and blew the likely ante-post betting market for the Cup in a number of new directions. It wasn’t just his winning margin that impressed, it was the manner in which the son of Kahal, so obviously still a “learner-driver”, simply marched away from his field, vindicating the prohibitive 1/3 odds about his chances. Anyone with an eye for an “improver”, will have noticed Andre MacDonald’s SAZIWAYO (Labeeb) flying from what seemed like a hopeless position at the back on the inside course at Turffontein, to finish within a few metres of the Turkish owned winner’s pursuers.

Make a note of SAZIWAYO; he may well run out of time before the cut for the big race, but there’s no argument about his credentials as a racehorse.

In other action at Turffontein, impressive first time winner THE GENERAL, (Muhtafal), was beaten in the dying stages by a well tried older horse in a race in which his master jockey, Mark Khan, was likely to say he may have gone a little early. Doubtless, he’d be quick to add that THE GENERAL is ready to take his place among the pre-race favourites for the winner’s loot.

A third Gary Alexander debutant (we’ve been talking about his hand in this race for several weeks now) to have his cloak removed was BURN UP, co-owned by Tellytrack’s most glamorous presenter, Julie Alexander, who was always battling on the tight bend over a distance too short for him (1000m), but nonetheless picked up a place cheque at the first time of asking.

He’s bound to improve, this one, and while it’s not like the Alexanders to put three races into a horse in just over a month, they might need to do so if he’s to be a player for the spoils on 1st November. Again, it was Mark Khan in the saddle, and he took little time in labeling BURN UP as a prospect for the future, over more ground.

Meanwhile, with interest in the Gallops (scheduled for Friday 17th October, at Summerhill) growing by the hour (the pilgrimage of top horsemen started some time ago) and the likes of Basil Marcus and a legion of clients due to fly in later this week, following inspections by Dennis Drier, Wally Brits, Mark Struwig and Tim Keating, it seems the financial woes of the world are little deterrent to the enthusiasm fans have developed for this sale. No doubt Summerhill’s “banking” offer of as much as a 6 cheque payment scheme to buyers has pricked their ears, and between Caroline Simpson of Bloodstock SA and Linda Norval and Marlene Breed of Summerhill, the enquiries are flooding in.

The most often-asked question, apart from the arrangements for the Gallops, is what those closest to the horses are beginning to tip. The sales biggest consignor, Summerhill, started this innovation five or six years ago with their managers and jockeys “picks” of the draft, and while there’s been many a star from beyond those identified at home, there’ve also been some serious horses singled out by these guys as well.

Among those whose names crop up regularly are siblings of IMBONGI, PICK SIX, SPRING GARLAND and CATMANDU, while those we mentioned include a daughter of Galileo, and colts by Rock of Gibraltar, Royal Academy and Galileo. There is universal admiration for the Labeebs in the sale, besides the usual “oohs” and “aahs” for the Kahals and Muhtafals.

A man whose opinion you’d always want to reckon with is Ben Mbhele, whose life-time at Hartford goes back to the legendary likes of SENTINEL and MOWGLI. It seems just the other day that Ben once again distinguished himself by singling out IMBONGI as a serious racehorse, when nobody bothered to so much as bid for him when he got to the sale.

Ben’s choices include CATMANDU’s sister; a GOLD PRESS filly out of EIGER; the MUHTAFAL/BLUE YONDER colt; and a stunning son of one Europe’s best stallions, CAPE CROSS, whose daughter OUIJA BOARD (among 6 other Gr1 winners) guaranteed him a place in the pantheon of great Thoroughbred stallions.

One of the sale’s most successful “pickers” is Paul Matchett, whose stand-outs from last year included MZWILILI, ineligible for the Cup because she was not subscribed. Paul’s connections have made no such mistake this time around, with their multiple winning FAKAZI, who illustrated her wellbeing for the Cup with a well earned victory over a Gr1 performer last time out. With a 2kg fillies’ allowance, FAKAZI is a live prospect in her own right.

“We’ve always thought the Ready to Run Sale a great place to shop. We’ve had some fine successes with our investments. We like the way Summerhill do their horses, and of course you get a horse where most of the hard yards have already been run. The horses are well-schooled and for all intents and purposes, many are ready for the races. There is a great incentive for buyers in the savings this generates, and there’s always the prospect of instant gratification”.