American Barry Irwin's intuitive feel for the thoroughbred breed has paid dividends yet again as his Summerhill Stud-based stallion Visionaire got off to a flying start with his first South African crop when the Glen Kotzen-trained two-year-old filly Royal Pleasure romped home by 6,75 lengths on debut over 1000m at Scottsville on Sunday under 2,5kg claiming apprentice Callan Murray.
Irwin is the founding member of Team Valor International who own Visionaire and who also bred Royal Pleasure.
Royal Pleasure was backed in from 25/1 and started 3/1 second favourite. She showed pace throughout and then simply pulled away from the opposition in the closing stages.
Kotzen will be planning her career carefully and not rushing her. He said, "She still had a ton in hand at the finish and pulled up very well."
Royal Pleasure created a big impression and one of her chief owners, the Durban bloodstock agent Andy Williams, said that the phone had been ringing off the hook since the win.
"Horses are always for sale if the price is right," said Williams.
Williams owns her in partnership with Kotzen's mother-in-law Judy Wintle as well as the youthful syndicate 3A Racing. The latter is made up of a group of friends that have a passion for racing and have done much to promote the sport to KZN's youth, so they are thoroughly deserving of landing such a promising horse. The 3A syndicate are headed by well know Tellytrack presenter Wesley Bowman and the Sportingbet Sports Trader, Andrew Harrison.
Royal Pleasure was chosen by Kotzen and Williams at the Suncoast KZN Yearling Sale and they clinched her for a mere R30,000. She also qualifies for the lucrative KZN Yearling Sale Million on Vodacom Durban July day.
Mick Goss of Summerhill Stud pointed out a couple of years ago that Irwin had always wanted to send a stallion like Visionaire to cover his mares in South Africa.
Irwin explained, "Visionaire had only 25 named foals in his first crop. He stood at one of the smaller farms in Kentucky and was not promoted very well. What Mick meant is that I want to stand a horse in South Africa that I have enough faith in to produce straight-legged foals so that I can breed my own mares. I don't like overpaying for classy but sometimes unreliable stallions that produce foals with front legs that are not consistently correct enough. The reason I chose Visionaire is that he is tall, his front limbs are perfect, he has a lot of bone, he was fast enough to sprint with the best, yet he easily got a middle distance around turns in America. Even though he was not an accomplished runner at 2, he did have the fastest clocking in the 2-year-old breeze-up sale in Ocala, Florida. He had plenty of gas."
Visionaire's best performance was when winning the Gr 1 King's Bishop Stakes over seven furlongs on the dirt at Saratoga. He swept from the back of a ten-horse field that day and powered away to a 2,25 length triumph in a race that is widely considered to be North America's most prestigious one-turn event for three-year-olds.
Visionaire is the son of the Gone West sire Grand Slam, who was a twice Gr 1 winner as a two-year-old. Among Grand Slam's best progeny were the five-time Graded winner Limehouse as well as the Breeder's Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat.
Visionaire produced the Listed winner Bacopa Breeze and the stakes-placed Outlook with his only USA-bred crop.