For all our years in the breeding game, we've never been a farm whose purpose has been the production of precocious juveniles; yet there was a time in the dim and distant past, when the stars were inline, and the early ones “came home” with a certain monotony.
This week harked back to those days, kicking off with a stunning debut victory for November's Ready To Run graduate, Emperor's Lass, who rolled a couple of “hotties” when the bookmakers' pricing suggested she was anything but a certainty. Her form was franked within the week when Sunday's Sentinel Stakes at Scottsville (ostensibly for the colts) fell to the filly, Silvan Jazz, some 11 lengths adrift of Emperor's Lass on her previous start. Trainer Corne Spies had obviously felt that taking on the colts would be a more profitable option than lining up on the same card in the King's Pact Stakes against Royal Pleasure, who'd smoked them by six and-three-quarters in her first appearance in mid-January.
It bears remembering that Royal Pleasure was a R35,000 purchase from our KZN Sales draft in June last year, and that the daughter of the new sire sensation, Visionaire, had recently changed hands for a reputed R1.5milion, bought back by her original breeders, Barry Irwin's Team Valor, in whose colours Visionaire himself had once campaigned. For her part, King's Pact was a legendary filly of the early 50s, and this event was named as a celebration of one of the most accomplished careers in our racing history. It will be a while yet before we can count Royal Pleasure in the same league, but her facile victory in the time-honoured scurry saw Greg Cheyne having to do no more than a “steering job” to keep her at her business.
Chatting afterwards to trainer Glen Kotzen on some remote ski slope in Alpine France, it seems the filly is typical of the Visionaire stock; robust, sound of mind with a jet-fuelled turn of foot. Visionaire himself did not make a juvenile, though he did post the quickest time at the two year old Breeze Up sale at which he was bought, so anything we see from his stock between now and next Spring, has to be a bonus. All the more encouraging that Lala came home lonely first up for Doug Campbell, and Jet Air cooked a much-vaunted line-up in Cape Town for Mike Bass: if there's a spring in the steps of the Monday morning crew here at the moment, it's because we're beginning to get that “tingly” old feeling again, brought on no less by the realization that close to half the draft for the big Jo'burg sales, are Visionaires.
It doesn't end there though, thankfully. We've long held a reverence for Brave Tin Soldier, and as readers of these columns obviously know, we've always believed his second crop would outdo his first. I need to take you back at this point to the days when Home Guard was still in residence at Summerhill, and Barry Walters and James Goodman gave us our first South African Classic ace, Last Watch. On the same day in 1991, Michael Azzie sent forth two juveniles to contest the 1400m maiden events, and both of them, Pennington and Triple Tempo, skated up like good horses.
Saturday was Classic day again at Turffontein, and a quarter century later, Michael Azzie was again at work with a Ready To Run graduate, this time a son of “Brave Tin”, Rabada. The colt is named for the South African Under 19 fast bowling sensation Kagiso Rabada, whose thunderbolts have had many a fan asking where he was when we faced the Kiwis in last week's World Cup semi. The horse Rabada had it all to do against a deep field from a deep draw, which everyone who knows the Turffontein 1400m, knows it is the kiss of death.
A loose horse complicated matters even further, dropping him out to stone last as the field reeled off the bend. It pays in circumstances like this to be in good hands; mercifully, the maestro was aboard. Anton Marcus simply reassured his mount, steered him another lane or two wider, and whoosh... Four-and-three-quarters was the measure of the verdict, with several “names” among the vanquished. By any standards, this was a high class performance, and bodes the world for Azzie's Durban winter.
While Rabada was a R300,000 Derek Brugman and Markus Jooste “pick” from the Ready To Run, he found an accomplice in Tar Heel at Kenilworth on Wednesday. To get the job done, Joey Ramsden's steed had to overcome a pair quoted at 15/10 and 18/10; tearaway pace made sure.
It hasn't been like this since Northern Guest was a boy.