Watch Strongman winning the Sophomore Sprint (Listed)
(Image : Sporting Post - Footage : Sporting Post)
Sophomore Sprint (Listed)
Kenilworth, Turf, 1200m
7 September 2013
Summerhill CEOSaturday in Cape Town witnessed the opening salvo in the battle for the nation’s three-year-old crown, with the renewal of the Sophomore Sprint (Listed). With one or two exceptions, the pride of the Cape tossed their names into the hat, but the field cut up to a mere six contestants when the rest realised that just about everyone who is anyone, had taken up the challenge. Top of the boards was Paddy Kruyer’s unbeaten Capitan Al colt, Kimberley Al, who’d been the subject of rave reviews in the local press in the lead up; Jay Peg’s rising star, Flash Drive, who’d knocked off a couple of big ticket horses in his previous two starts, Vaughan Marshall’s much-vaunted Western Winter colt Exelero, and the unbeaten duo Daring Dave (by Dynasty) and Strongman, winner of both his starts to date.
A word about Strongman. He was the first foal from the second (and much lamented last crop) of Danehill’s champion handicapping son, Stronghold, and the first foal of the Group-winning Casey Tibbs mare, Sweet Virginia. He wasn’t big the day he was born, but he was as smart as they come, sturdy on his feet and weighed in at a punchy 48.5kgs. Our foalcare team reported “Very nice, quality foal with scope and substance. Good bodied and correct” and this was followed a fortnight later by “he’s a strong, well-made foal with good balance and a nice quarter”. By season’s end “he’s done really well: he’s out of a smallish mare, but he’s got plenty of body on him, well-proportioned, stands over ground and has a big engine in his backside”.
By the time he was a yearling, he was looking every bit a runner, and while he might have been somewhat “outsized” at a sale like the Nationals, he would’ve been a standout at the Emperors Palace Ready To Run, because there, our customers know there are no walking races, and if they can run, they’re happy to pay for them. In the end though, circumstances called for his inclusion as early as January in the Cape Premier Yearling Sale Book 1 catalogue, where he fell to the R150,000 bid of the astute horseman, Glen Puller.
On Saturday, he went off at a generous 5-1 in the betting, yet he came home like a 1-5 shot, after biding his time till the 300m mark towards the rear. He was in the hands of a master though, and when Karl Neisius thought he was ready to run, he let out just a notch of the string, and “whoosh”, he was gone, demolishing his foes by a growing 4.5 lengths. De Kock ran admirably for second, no match for the winner, with another three and a half lengths to Exelero.
On this evidence, Strongman claims frontrunner status among Cape three-year-olds for line honours in this year’s Cape Premier Yearling Sales Guineas (Gr.1), and it will take a very good colt from anywhere else in the country to lower his colours. He is a tribute to the blokes who owned his mother: Robin Bruss, who’s been associated with the top class sorts, Zebra Crossing and Circle Of Life, in his time, and Kevin Sommerville, who stuck to his Sweet Virginia “guns” throughout his sojourn at Juddmonte Farm in the UK, and now serves as bloodstock manager to Gaynor Rupert’s showpiece, Drakenstein Stud.
When we were “stalking” Stronghold, the racehorse, as a future stallion prospect at the Challenge Stakes meeting in Newmarket, I had the feeling I was being “followed” on my way to the parade. I was. I obviously wasn’t alone in my admiration for the strapping favourite; Bruss and Sommerville were hot on my heels, but I was fortunate to be sharing a house at the time, with Teddy Beckett, (Lord Grimthorpe,) bloodstock manager to Stronghold’s owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah. We had the inside track: never give up pole position!