Both Hero's Honour and Pierre Jourdan were trained by Gary Alexander, and while his pedigree cast doubts on Pierre Jourdan’s ability to see out the trip (more so in the conditions) there were no such concerns for Hero’s Honour, whose father, Await The Dawn, was world class at 2400m and whose dam, Grail Maiden (by the great stamina influence, Galileo) celebrated one of her 4 victories at the distance.
Hero’s Honour, incidentally, was the second Group One Classic winner from a Galileo mare on Saturday, following Saxon Warrior’s stirring conquest of the English 2000 Guineas field at Newmarket.
In the process, Hero’s Honour became the third Group One winner from his generation’s Summerhill Ready To Run draft, following South Africa’s highest rated juvenile filly of 2017, Brave Mary, and the sensational Takingthepeace, who lost little in defeat in her attempt at the Triple Tiara on Saturday, other than the finishing speed which her lineage had predicted would prove elusive at the distance.
Comeback Kid Mark Khan defied fitness doubts and the generous betting odds to grab his fourth SA Derby winner when steering longshot Hero’s Honour home for Gary Alexander in the R2 million Grade 1 SA Derby at Turffontein on Saturday.
A five-times SA Champion Jockey, Khan was having his first Grade 1 ride in over 7 years when throwing a leg over Hero’s Honour as he turned back time and made a mockery of age and battle scars – and that after retiring from the saddle in 2010.
Khan returned to race riding in August last year, hurt a knee while work riding and was off for six months from the end of October. This was his first win since his recent return to riding.
A maiden winner, Hero’s Honour was trying the 2450m for the first time on Saturday and taking on some big guns. But he produced the goods to give Gary Alexander his third SA Derby success and the jockey-trainer combination a second after Timber Trader won the race in 2002.
Khan had Hero’s Honour relaxed in fifth as Walter Smoothie and Gambado showed the way all the way around. At the 400m, Aldo Domeyer produced Ashley Fortune’s Cash Time down the centre with what looked to be a winning surge. But Hero’s Honour slipped down the rail and took command as Surcharge and Noble Secret took off late.
At the line, the multiple champion jockey had judged it to perfection and the 55-1 shot Hero’s Honour registered an impressive win by 1,50 lengths in a time of 155,09. Surcharge rounded off a perfect SA Triple Crown consolation – banking a second cheque in all three legs, with the Mike de Kock runner Noble Secret a further quarter length back in third. Cash Time was a neck back in fourth and only tired late in the race. Majestic Mambo, ridden by sub Keagan De Melo, finished ninth and just under 5 lengths off the winner. He was all over the place again, first looking outside and then going to the rail for a run.
Hero’s Honour was a first Grade 1 winner for Lawrence and Jarryd Wernars, whose familiar white, red and black silks are seen across the country.
A R300,000 2016 CTS Johannesburg Ready To Run Sale graduate, Hero’s Honour has won 2 races with 2 places from 6 starts for stakes of R1,354,600.
Bred by Summerhill Stud in partnership with longtime clients, Americans Robert & Susan Lynch, the winner is by Await The Dawn – a son of Giant’s Causeway who stood for less than two years at Summerhill Stud before he died of a heart attack in October 2014,
Hero’s Honour is out of the versatile four-time winner Grail Maiden (Galileo), who won from 1200m to 2400m, and no doubt imparted her staying genes to her son.