RETURN FLIGHT ALL CLASS IN THE OAKS
Champion Return Flight (Pomodoro) ventured into uncharted waters when asked to go the 2400m trip for the first time in the Gr.2 SA Oaks. Imbued with an abundance of class, she passed the test with flying colours by slamming her rivals in convincing fashion.
Fresh off a front running victory in the Gr.1 SA Fillies Classic over 1800m, Sean Tarry’s charge tracked pacesetter Seville Orange (Duke Of Marmalade) into the Turffontein straight and when jockey Pierre Strydom let out the reins, it was race over as she powered away to score by the best part of two lengths from Fillies Classic third Blossom (Silvano).
As a winner of the final two legs of the Triple Tiara, it is regrettable that she was wasn’t quite right when forced to miss the first leg, the Fillies Guineas.
Crowned last season’s champion juvenile filly when successful in the Gr.1 Thekwini Stakes, the dual Gr.1 and Classic winner is from the first crop of Jet Master’s Gr.1 winning son Pomodoro, as is Cirillo, who made Soqrat work for his victory when second in the preceding Gr.1 H F Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes.
Like their sire, both are owned by Chris van Niekerk, who no doubt blushes every time his champion filly adds to her growing resume. No stranger to spending big at the sales, he ‘stole’ the daughter of his July winner for just R20,000 from Highlands stud manager Mike Sharkey as a yearling. In addition, the cut of the Oaks purse boosted her earnings to over R1.9 million.
Return Flight is the first Stakes winner out of Gr.3 Diana Stakes third Heading Home (Special Preview), from the female family of dual champion Up The Creek (Royal Prerogative), winner of the Gr.1 SA Fillies Guineas, Gr.1 Paddock Stakes and two renewals of the Gr.1 Garden Province Stakes.
VAN HALEN ROCKS IN GR.3 SPRINT
Returning to action off a two-month rest, Oratorio three-year-old Van Halen duly snapped a four-race losing streak with a convincing victory in the Gr.3 Man O’War Stakes over 1100m.
The Tobie Spies-trained gelding found a timely split a furlong out and blitzed into the lead close home to surge past Russian Prince (Potala Palace) at the death. It was a welcome return to the juvenile form which saw him claim the Gr.1 Gold Medallion at Scottsville.
Van Halen cost co-owner Fito Englezakis R100,000 at the Cape Premier Yearling Sale, a sum which now looks small change, considering this latest success pushed his earnings past R820,000.
From the second local crop of his sire, Ascot Stud-bred Van Halen hails from a fine family nurtured by the Parkers. He is out of Gr.1 Allan Robertson third Rock Concert (Lecture), whose own sister Rock Opera landed the Allan Robertson for Tobie’s son Corné in a flawless juvenile campaign which earned her championship honours. She is of course the dam of Dubai Gr.2 winner Heavy Metal (Exceed And Excel), who just hours after Van Halen’s success, finished a game second in the Gr.2 Godolphin Mile at the Dubai World Cup meeting.
Rock Concert is also an own sister to the Gr.2 SA Nursery victor Hit Song and a three-parts-sister to Royal Drummer (Kilconnel), the dam of Sail From Seattle’s Gr.1 Cape Flying Championship hero Gulf Storm and the Spies-trained Gr.3 winning filly Seattle Singer, who defeated all her male rivals bar Always In Charge in the Gr.1 Gold Medallion .
SUNSHINE SMOOTH AS SILK
Champion stallion Silvano is no stranger to siring high-class distance winners. Gold Cup hero Aslan, the country’s leading stayer in 2010, heads a list which also includes Kenilworth Cup winner Gothic and 2011 SA Derby victor Seal, who matured into a stayer of note, claiming both the Gr.2 Gold Vase and Gr.3 Caradoc Gold Cup.
Last weekend, four-year-old daughter Sunshine Silk became her sire’s second Caradoc winner when she scored a convincing two-length victory in the energy-sapping race over 2850m. It was a first Stakes success for the chesnut, who was always going to be ultra-competitive, considering she came into the race with bottom weight off a five-length romp in the 2400m Sun Chariot Stakes.
Trained by Geoff Woodruff, she is out of Al Mufti’s placed daughter Vanilla Silk, who is also the dam of Stakes-placed six-time winner Enchanted Silk (Kahal). Al Mufti has been a tremendous foil for Silvano, with notable horses produced on the cross including the champions Bold Silvano and Kings Gambit, as well as Gr.1 winner Al Sahem.
TWILIGHT MOON UP TO THE TASK
The Gr.3 Protea Stakes was billed a rematch between Frosted Gold and Twilight Moon following their deadheat in the Listed Storm Bird Stakes, however, despite being a kilogram worse off, the latter outgunned his rival by just over a length.
New Zealand-bred Frosted Gold started favourite and took the lead a long way from home. His early exertions caught up with him at the death however and Paul Matchett’s charge surged past to win going away.
That Twilight Moon is fast proving to be a dream horse for his owners would be an understatement. Plucked from the KwaZulu-Natal Yearling Sales for a paltry R20,000, he has already returned that tenfold, with the promise of more to come.
Twilight Moon is a first-crop stakes winner for promising freshman sire Wylie Hall. A classic winner of the Gr.1 SA Derby the son of Redoute’s Choice was first past the post in the 2014 Durban July, only to lose the race in the boardroom. He stands at Vaughan Koster’s Cheveley Stud.
His talented son was bred by Daytona Stud and is the first winner out of Vanilla Twilight (Qui Danzig), whose own sister Six Blue Notes took third in both the Gr.1 Golden Slipper and Gr.1 Thekwini Stakes.
SHOCK RESULT IN THE PRETTY POLLY
The Gr.3 Pretty Polly Stakes for juvenile fillies proved a triumph for the smaller stables when the Romeo Francis-trained Palace Of Dreams snuck in under the radar to lose her maiden tag at the prohibitive odds of 45-1.
Highly-regarded favourite Gin Fizz (Soft Falling Rain) looked set for victory inside the final furlong but was run out of it by the late-charging longshot, who came with a wet sail to claim the 1100m dash by a half length.
To rub further salt into the wounds, Palace Of Dreams was purchased by Francis for a bargain basement R15,000 at last year’s 2YO Sale from breeders Highlands Stud.
She is the first Stakes winner for promising young Highlands stallion Potala Palace, who narrowly missed out on a Graded Stakes double when three-year-old son Russian Prince was beaten a neck in the Gr.3 Man O’War Sprint.
Palace Of Dreams is out of Cheery Berry Bim (Spectrum), a half-sister to Gr.2 Thekwini Fillies second La Boutique (Jallad), whose own sister Roman Dream produced Bauhinia Handicap winner Onehundredacrewood (Malhub) and multiple Stakes-placed Emperor Augustus (Kahal).
That the lack of access to world-class shuttle stallions has had a profound impact on the South African breeding industry cannot be disputed. For one, it has resulted in the export of many a Gr.1 winning filly (abovementioned Rock Opera, the dam of Heavy Metal, is a fine example).
Australia in particular, has been a prime destination and this coming week’s Inglis Easter Sale catalogue features the offspring of three Gr.1-performed South African-bred mares.
More Than Ready is the sire of a filly (Lot 40) out of Gr.1 Allan Robertson victress Happy Valentine (Silvano), whose Australasian female line should stand her in good stead, being that of champion Starcraft (Soviet Star).
Champion three-year-old In The Fast Lane, who completed the Gr.1 Cape Fillies Guineas/Woolavington 2000 double, will be represented by her first foal, a colt by Snitzel (Lot 56).
By seven-time champion sire Jet Master, this half-sister to champion sprinter Let’s Rock’N Roll (Muhtafal) is one of seven Stakes performers out of Zimbabwe champion First Arrival.
Lightning fast Gr.3 winner Sweet Sanette (Jallad), who went on to further Stakes success in Hong Kong, enjoyed probably her finest moment at the Royal meeting when third in the Gr.1 King’s Stand Stakes. Her first three foals, all by Fastnet Rock, are multiple winners and include Gr.3-placed three-year-old Sweet Rockette. She is the dam of a filly by I Am Invincible (Lot 295).
-Ada Van Der Bent