Captain Of All, winner of the Gr1 Mercury Sprint.
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Durban - It's all happening at The Mercury Spring at the Greyville Racecourse in Durban on Saturday, 18 July 2015, with an action-packed programme of needle-match competition, fun and entertainment for the whole family.
The Mike Bass-trained filly Fly By Night closed a chapter in South African racing yesterday when winning the last ever feature event at Clairwood Racecourse, the Grade 1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m, under a well-judged ride by Anthony Delpech. It was fitting that two such fine professionals combined to win the big race on this historic day.
Click above to watch What A Winter winning the Mercury Sprint (Gr1)
(Photo : Gold Circle - Footage : Racing International)
Mercury Sprint (Grade 1)
Clairwood, Turf, 1200m
14 July 2012
Summerhill Stud CEOI sometimes wonder whether racehorses don’t exist to remind us of our fallibility. The enigmatic What A Winter is undoubtedly one of the most talented racehorses in the land; for all his marvellous attributes, on his day, I’d love to see him take on Black Caviar at Royal Ascot or at Royal Randwick, you name it. When he’s on song, he literally purrs, and on Saturday he was back to his best in the Mercury Sprint (Gr.1), where he gave the dual Group One ace, Delago Deluxe, a galloping lesson.
Granted, unlike Black Caviar, our man is a bit quirky. When he’s at home he verges on the unbeatable, but he’s not big on away games. That much he’s told us on two visits to Scottsville, and unlike the Randlords, he’s not mad about Jo’burg either. You can send Black Caviar anywhere, and she’ll produce the “after-burners”, but this fellow likes it his way. If you didn’t know it, you might have said that Clairwood Park was away from home too, but then you’d be forgetting that this is his winter home, the place from whence Mike Bass sent forth Pocket Power to his Vodacom Durban July victory among many others, so What A Winter is almost as at “home” at Clairwood as he is in Cape Town.
This is no ordinary horse though; he’s a man-mountain as a specimen, a V8 in his backside, great depth of girth, and a powerful sloping shoulder. To cap it, he has a grand head, broad and masculine with a big, genuine eye. And when you see him turn it on, you quickly forgive the odd flop; here is the perfect running machine, an easy, elastic action which rakes the ground barely an inch above the surface.
I know Mike Bass thinks he can get a mile, and perhaps he does, but what’s the point? At his best trip and at his best, he’s virtually unassailable. Whether he’ll get the opportunity to vindicate our views of his class with a trip to Ascot remains to be seen. Knowing Marsh Shirtliff though, and the competitor he is, I think this fellow’s got wings.
Sunday’s Group One Mercury Sprint was a revelation once again of the remarkable depth among South Africa’s sprinters. Three seasons ago CATALOOCHEE ran some of the fastest times in the world, including an all-Africa record for 1000 metres. Last year local fans were treated to some spectacular racing as MYTHICAL FLIGHT went one step further, only to be beaten in his final start by WAR ARTIST, in the same Mercury Sprint. WAR ARTIST has since gone on to make a significant impression in Group One company in the UK this season, and now we have a new star burning even brighter.
Perhaps the most appealing high-flyer imaginable, three year old JJ THE JET PLANE has been in take-off mode right through the season, taking his third consecutive Group One in track record time on Sunday in the self-same Mercury Sprint, after toting an almost impossible 60kg to victory in the Golden Horse Sprint G1, on his previous start. By any standards anywhere, this is a racehorse; and it’ll take an enormously talented one to lower his colours, when he gets to his new home in Hong Kong under the tutelage of Mike de Kock. Not that we should take a single thing away from the masterful manner in which he’s been handled by Lucky Houdalakis at home. Here’s a man in only his second year as a trainer, and he’s managed “JJ” like a seasoned veteran.
And his victim on Sunday? The luckless Summerhill-bred REBEL KING, whose fourth Group One second it was. Let’s not forget, it took MYTHICAL FLIGHT, WAR ARTIST and now JJ THE JET PLANE to deny him the glory of Group One victory. Mercifully, his vanquishers have either left, or are about to take flight, so perhaps his time is still to come, though it will take a man like Charles Laird to spare him long enough to do so. Those with memories will recall Charlie’s expert management of the career of six-time Equus Awards finalist and three times Champion, NHLAVINI, who was still contesting (and winning) at Group One level, well into his ninth season.
JJ The Jet Plane
The dust around the sale, or non-sale, and move or non-move of JJ The Jet Plane has settled. The horse has not been sold to an overseas interest but will join Mike de Kock for an overseas campaign in the latter part of 2008 and into 2009.
He will remain in training with Lucky Houdalakis, who owns him in partnership with Coenie Strydom, Hennie du Preez and Thea Boyens.
“I will prepare JJ for the Mercury Sprint and then he will move on to Mike,” said Lucky Houdalakis. “I’ve been getting too many calls and text messages asking about the issue. This is final. The deal is done, Mike de Kock’s getting the horse.”
Mike de Kock will be mapping out an overseas campaign for JJ The Jet Plane and said: “The premature reporting in some of the media led to some confusion and was annoying, but I’m glad things are concluded now, he’s a top horse and we’re excited to be entrusted with his future.”
Assertive and Richard Hannon (sportinglife/thoroughbred-news)
Last year’s Mercury Sprint hero, War Artist, who came home narrowly ahead of Summerhill-bred, Rebel King, in that event, ran a big race on just his second UK appearance yesterday. The European Bloodstock News reported:
Assertive, a five-year-old son of Gr.1 winning sprinter Bold Edge (Beveled), powered to victory in yesterday’s Gr.2 Duke of York Stakes on the opening day of York’s Dante meeting. He defeated the South African Gr.1 winner War Artist (Orpen) by a neck to record his first Group success after three Listed wins.
The first and second could renew their rivalry in the Gr.1 Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. Bold Edge won the Gr.1 Prix Maurice de Gheest, as well as the Gr.2 Diadem Stakes and Gr.2 Cork and Orrery Stakes for his owner/breeder Lady Whent and trainer Richard Hannon, the same team to celebrate success with Assertive.
The mob that turned up at Clairwood for the country’s No1 weight-for-age sprint, came to worship the Champ, not to bury him, but those that took to the field had only one hope, and that was that Mythical Flight might find the 1200 metres under the conditions and against a slight headwind, just a tad too far.
Charles Laird had already made it known that this was the first time he’d been able to prepare Summerhill-bred Rebel King thoroughly, and so he was the only one in this quality gathering to go off at single figures (6/1) besides the favourite, deep in the red at 4/10. Rebel King might’ve been even shorter if he’d not had the very worst of the draw (No1), and had to tack right across to the opposite rail, which is where he finished.
Interestingly, Muhtafal was the only sire with three horses in the field, some sort of compliment to a horse who’s being threatening the top end of the Sires’ Log throughout the season.
Mythical Flight bounded out in his customary fashion, had the field off the bridle at the half way, and looked home and hosed three lengths clear with 300m to go.
ut both Rebel King and War Artist (by Orpen, Aussie bred) were lurking, waiting to deliver their challenge in the final 100m, and with War Artist well drawn at 12 and there for nothing, he had just too much for them at the death. Rebel King flew the last bit to grab second from the Champion, and with both the winner and Mythical Flight bound for Europe, he could be formidable next season.
Rebel King was one of six exceptional three year olds from Summerhill this season. Strangely, he was the only one of them to show serious talent at two, but he is in illustrious company with Emperor Napoleon, Pick Six, Khebraat, Dynamite Mike and Desert Links, the latter of whom could not’ve been more impressive Friday evening, and is now set for the Gold Circle Derby on the 28th July.
Amazingly, there’s hardly been a Grade One winner this winter that doesn’t know the taste of Africa’s finest horsefeed, and Sunday’s Mercury Sprint was no exception. First place went to Herman Brown’s War Artist, second to Charles Laird’s Rebel King, and the trifecta was completed by Sean Tarry’s champion, Mythical Flight.
It can’t all be coincidence, we all know that, but there’s a good deal more to it, quite obviously.
7 of the 9 winners at Clairwood last Saturday were VUMA-fed including Grp 1 Mercury Sprint winner NATIONAL COLOUR.
Congratulations to all connections. Vuma is proud to be associated with your Yard.