Sansui Summer Cup 2009
(Photos : Racingweb/Phumelela/JHB)
2009 SANSUI SUMMER CUP
In his column “Impeccably Dashing” on Racingweb.co.za, Alec Hogg previews Saturday’s Sansui Summer Cup and says his heart is with Ormond Ferraris’ orphan Magical, but logic points to Charles Laird’s Kiwi Superstar, Oracy.
Following is an extract from the article :
Apart from the wonderful name, his unusual story is sure to make Magical the sentimental favourite.
That this tough gelding is so feared by the opposition despite only having won three of his 10 starts, is a sign of the professionals’ respect for the 77 year-old master trainer who tells me he specifically missed the lucrative KZN Winter season - and even a tilt at the Vodacom Durban July - to aim his stable’s star for Saturday’s race. The actual preparation, though, started more than two years ago.
Ormond Ferraris says he identified Magical’s father, ill-fated Labeeb, as a potential Champion sire when he saw him at Summerhill Stud shortly after the imposing stallion arrived from America: “I liked Labeeb’s racing record, the way he was put together especially his good legs, and his pedigree. I sent my only mare, Nettle, to be covered by him - they produced Opera Cloak who has won three races. Not bad for a first foal.”
So when Ferraris spotted a son of Labeeb on a Durban sale where only 64 yearlings were catalogued, he decided to take a closer look. Magical’s breeder Rodney Clarkin, himself a renowned horseman, remembers Ferraris being taken by the big colt the moment he saw him: “This wasn’t surprising, Magical was outstanding from day one.”
Magical was knocked down to Ferraris for R130 000, a bargain in anyone’s language. Although it now looks as though he sold the horse too cheaply, Clarkin has no regrets: “I couldn’t have asked for him to be with a better trainer. Ormond has planned this campaign to a tee. Speak to some of the old timers and they’ll tell you Magical has been given a mighty fine programme going into the race, a preparation second to none.”
As a participant in the KZN Breeder’s Premiums programme, Clarkin has a vested interest in pulling for Ferraris’s horse. Unfortunately, that’s his only economic interest as Magical’s mother, the Foveros mare Bite Your Tongue, died shortly after producing her last foal, a filly by Muhtafal, which Clarkin sold for R120 000. The rationale behind pairing his mare with Labeeb? Clarkin admits: “It was just one of those lucky matings. I was looking for size as she was a smallish, squat mare and Labeeb was a big, imposing horse. Pedigree-wise it was an outcross; you have to go back five generations to find a common ancestor in Nasrullah.”
As Magical and other sons and daughters have shown, had he lived, Labeeb may well have proved Ferraris’s view that he was a Champion in the making. Summerhill’s stud master Greig Muir, who worked closely with Magical’s father during his two seasons at stud, describes his premature death as “desperate……his stats are very good and his youngsters are really tough.”
Even the way Labeeb left the earth was dramatic.
Muir tells: “We’d walked Labeeb and the other stallions up to the top of the hill for a photo shoot and all was normal until shortly after we started coming home. Labeeb must have had an aneurism in the brain. For apparently no reason he started attacking his handler; I went to help and he picked me up and threw me over a fence - surgery was later needed to repair the damage. With me over the hedge he turned on his handler again and was about to give him the deathblow when Labeeb suddenly fell dead to the ground.
“Labeeb was a character, tough as nails …. a Bakkies Botha of the racing world….. he took on some of the best that America had to offer and beat them. When one walks into the office at Shadwell America in Kentucky, there is a large glass cabinet with silverware mostly attributed to the performances of Labeeb (he won 8 of 19 starts including two Gr1 races on American turf). US racing pundit and international stallion authority Bill Oppenheim, rated Labeeb as one of the most influential and high potential sires to come into South Africa in the last decade and he wasn’t far wrong. From a limited stud career in South Africa during which time he produced only two crops (2004 - 2006 he died just prior to the breeding season in 2006) he became a Freshman Sire sensation. He lies today in “the Avenue” here at Summerhill amongst fellow past inmates like Rambo Dancer, Northern Guest and Coastal. Don’t worry, we still salute him when we go past and we still get goose pimples when we think what might have been.”
So with both his father and mother having passed on, Magical is what we humans would call an orphan. But he doesn’t now that. Neither is he aware that the most dangerous of Saturday’s opponents cost 20 times more than him when they were sold on auction as yearlings. His trainer and part owner Ferraris dismisses the suggestion that it’s a two horse race - he also has great respect for yet another Laird-inmate, Eight Street, a gelded son of the international super stallion Street Cry. But for those with a sense of history - and the bookmakers - this looks too much like a replay of the 1930’s duels between War Admiral and Seabiscuit to consider other contenders too seriously.
In his gifted pilot Piere “Striker” Strydom, the Ferraris-trained gelding has one of the best riders in the world on board. He will carry 54kg against their 58kg so in effect has been given a five length start by both Oracy and Eight Street. Against this, Magical jumps from a wide gate (14), a particular concern for both Ferraris and Strydom.
The master trainer rates the poor draw as “my biggest worry”. Strydom frets that his mount is a slow starter who lacks “gate speed” so the poor draw might be force them to sit a lot further back in the early running than the pilot would like. Strydom says even without this disadvantage Oracy “will be a tough nut to crack - we’re a bit better off at the weights with Oracy than the last time we met, but he won so easily that you can’t be sure how much he still had in the tank.”
Strydom, an astute judge, believes his horse’s chances will be affected by the pace of the race. The ideal, he says, would be one where the field “goes like the clappers” so that he can place Magical around six lengths behind the leader coming into the business end: “Then we must hope that Oracy doesn’t stay the distance and we fly past him near the finish.”
Visit www.racingweb.co.za to read Alec Hogg’s full article.
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