While things didn't quite go according to the script, at the weights and even from his dreaded draw, Rabada was supposed to remain unbeaten. The truth is, his conqueror Champagne Haze, is a darn good horse, better still if you can believe his jockey Andrew Fortune, than his illustrious older sibling, Pierre Jourdan. Brave words from a brave man, but as a former champion jockey who's ridden both of them, you'd have to respect what he says. Particularly as the margin of victory over the nation's highest-rated juvenile of last season, was a cosy three lengths, a point Fortune made with a voluble gesture of the whip to his fellow champion journeyman, Anton Marcus toiling away on the standside on Rabada.
With something approaching a score in his number of owners, there was mayhem in the winner's enclosure, appropriate on the back of a race for two-and-a-half "bars". While none of them owns enough to command the heights when it comes to his future career path, it seems there is a consensus among them that Champagne Haze is not headed for the Cape summer season. Otherwise translated, it sounds like the Gauteng Guineas in March, the Premier's Classic in April and then he'll head for Durban.
The 14 slot had him wide early, though Marcus made the best fist of what he had in the circumstances. Once faced with daylight, the colt took a furlong to fire up the turbos, but by then the other principals in the finish had gotten away on the far side. First to deliver his challenge was Alesh Naidoo's Main Submission (rumoured unbeatable before the "off"), while Duke Nukem ranged up as a possibility at one stage, only to be headed I thought, a little prematurely by Champagne Haze. Fortune realised he'd hit the front too soon, and eased the victor down a touch before asking him the final question. The response was instantaneous, leaving Rabada the "impossible" to catch him. Nothing was going better than this pair at the death, though the Visionaire filly Heaps Of Fun gobbled up the ground hand-over-fist from the tail of the field, the first of her sex home.
The results marked a seventh triumph (from nine renewals) for graduates of the farm, and a sixth exacta. I'm not sure though, that we've ever swept the first "five" before, so this one might've been for the books.
Meanwhile, across the seas in the Breeders' Cup Classic, American Pharoah displayed again the remarkable mettle that proclaimed him his country's first Triple Crown ace since Affirmed in 1978, blasting away from the start to obliterate the best of America by five at the post. This is a helluva horse, a veritable machine who jumps in from the get-go, and simply zips through the gears, grinding his foes into submission. In the event, American Pharoah has become too valuable to risk him again as a four year old, and early this morning he was safely ensconced at Coolmore, just a ten minute van ride from the scene of Saturday's annihilation.
In the wee hours of this morning, the nation stopped again Down Under to witness the making of history in the Melbourne Cup. Thank heavens for the term "Australasian", because in equine terms that allows the Aussies to recruit their Kiwi compatriots into their "Cup" fold; unlike the good old days when the race rested between Kiwis and Aussies (the former usually held sway,) it's only an occasional occurrence that one of their "own" comes home nowadays. This morning was such an occasion, but that wasn't the "history-maker". That honour belonged to Michelle Payne, who in steering the 100-1 New Zealander, Prince Of Penzance to the honours, became the first lady in the 140 year saga of the world's richest staying race, to do so. An epic outcome, really, given the hundreds of millions spent on all the imports clogging the field in their desperation to get their claws on the three handles of the quirkiest trophy in the game. And just to preserve the individuality of Australian racing, on a podium generally reserved for the graciousness of its victors, our young lady used the opportunity to tell her chauvinistic colleagues who'd loudly suggested no female could ever win the race, to "get stuffed". Some "lady"!
We know we've devoted a lot more to the Ready To Run Cup than we have to these epic international events today. yet at a time of a 150 year drought and with good news about as scarce as flying pigs, this was a weekend to celebrate. Four more came home on the Greyville card on Sunday, including two bold showings by the sophomore offspring of Visionaire and a glass-raising performance from Flyfirstclass, who demolished the "July" hero Power King, and Gold Challenge runner-up, Bold Ice in the headliner. Life's not that bad after all.
Champagne Haze / JC Photographics