VODACOM DURBAN JULY 2015
It was just a year ago at the same venue that the Stipendiary Stewards faced the unenviable task of entertaining an objection by the connections of subsequent Horse Of The Year Legislate against the Australian-bred Wylie Hall.
And on Saturday, the preferably unthinkable happened again.
In 2014 it was upheld – this time round the Stipes overruled the objection for interference in the latter stages by runner-up jockey Ian "Fish" Sturgeon, in favour of Power King retaining the winner's sash.
For Maine Chance Farms and their stallion Silvano, the achievement of producing the first three home must be something of a Gr1 world record. What an outstanding result and an innovative suggestion mooted by Gold Circle Executive Graeme Hawkins that the winning breeder be acknowledged – perhaps a year too late, but nevertheless an item for the 2016 checklist.
In the final analysis, there will be divided opinion as to the merits of the decision in favour of the Khaya Stables runner – Punta Arenas bumped first, and Power King did the same – but was probably finishing the stronger when it really counted and won going away.
The two Cape raiders played a leading role in a dramatic twist (what's the chances of it happening two year's running?) to the R3,5 million Vodacom Durban July that saw eighteen of our top horses lining up to do battle over the new look and much tighter Greyville circuit – a track that will also come under the critical spotlight after a rough and tumble final 400m, that saw the fancied, and apparently well handicapped 3yo, Legal Eagle, amongst others, being hampered.
After Deputy Jud led for home, jockey Stuart Randolph brought Power King from off the pace down the middle of the track, and with the luckless Punta Arenas (what a gallant effort, after being squeezed coming for home down the outside rail) coming to join him in the fight for glory at the 200m, the Kannemeyer galloper appeared to slip after taking a slight bump. But he changed legs and then ran on stoutly to beat Punta Arenas by 0,75 lengths in a time of 135,17 secs.
Tellina, who threatened early in the straight, ran on for third, just a half length further back, with Futura coming from almost last into the straight and staying on well for fourth. The latter two finished the other way around in 2014.
The favourite Legal Eagle ran fifth, 2,50 lengths behind, with Daily News 2000 winner French Navy a further half length back in sixth.
Power King's win marks a long list of memorable achievements for many of the players involved.
But first and foremost, commiserations are due and a thought should be spared for Punta Arena's trainer Stan Elley, who hands in his licence at the end of this month after some 40 years in the game. A win would have been a fairytale ending – but a win on an objection would definitely not have been the way the sporting Phillipian would have chosen to have achieved what could have been a glorious career highpoint.
An emotional Stan Elley was bitterly disappointed but said it had been a fair decision. "I have no complaints. If you had offered me second place at 6 o'clock this morning I would have taken it with both hands."
For owner Khaya Stables' Lady Christine Laidlaw, who celebrates the official handover to the Summerhill Stallion ranks of her multiple Gr1 winning champion Capetown Noir on Sunday, it was a momentous first Durban July victory – her previous best being the 2014 L'Ormarins Queen's Plate.
Jockey Stuart Randolph will surely never forget his first July winner – for more reasons than the thrill of "just" winning. His composure and ice-cool temperament in gathering and balancing his mount, would have gone a long way in convincing the committee that Power King deserved to keep the race.
"My heart did sink when I heard the hooter," said Randolph. "But after I looked at the head-on I knew I was safe. The other horse bumped me twice."
For trainer Dean Kannemeyer, the victory was the cherry on top of a great season, and capped a dream 21st century treble of victories, after Dynasty had won it in 2003, and Eyeofthetiger followed up in 2006 – both raced in the familiar Fieldspring Racing maroon silks.
Power King's stablemate Hot Ticket finished downfield, but he will be a very different proposition in the Gold Cup on Super Saturday in three weeks from now.
The Maine Chance-bred Power King is a 4yo gelded son of Silvano out of the Northern Guest mare, Northern Gale.
He was a R380 000 2012 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale purchase when named Nereus. He has now won 6 races with 9 places from 19 starts and R2 923 625.
A dramatic climax to a great day – now roll on 2016!
Extract from Sporting Post
Power King Takes The July Win / SA Horseracing (p)