South Africa’s Champions Season 2019 was launched in spectacular fashion in Durban and Johannesburg this weekend with the “heavenly brothers”, Rainbow Bridge and Hawwaam, producing incredible performances at Greyville and Turffontein.
Sons of the Jet Master mare Halfway To Heaven and bred at the famous Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein stud operation, the two wowed the crowds that attended the two major race meetings – the Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes where the four-year-old Rainbow Bridge had the crowd gasping with amazement at his brilliant flying finish for second in the feature on Friday evening while those at the Champions Day meeting at Turffontein on Saturday were stunned by the powerful runaway victory in the Grade 1 Premier’s Champion Challenge the three-year-old sibling Hawwaam produced.
Rainbow Bridge, the son of Ideal World from the Eric Sands stable was having his first outing since winning the Grade 1 Sun Met in January and found the 1 400m trip a touch short of his best. Still on the underdone side in his fitness condition and well off the pace early in the short Greyville home straight, the bay gelding responded to the call from Anton Marcus for a special effort and like a Formula 1 racer he flashed down the centre of the track to narrowly lose to winner Undercover Agent.
Hawwaam, the exciting Silvano charge of Mike de Kock that was scratched from the Derby at Turffontein at his last appearance after breaking through the parade ring barrier, had won four of his five previous races including the Grade 1 SA Classic where he won by nearly six lengths. He was favourite for Saturday’s 2 000m event and after racing up with the pace he finally switched into overdrive at about the 200m mark and, with Anton Marcus just sitting quietly still on his back, drew clear to win by four lengths from stable companion Cascapedia.
The “brothers” could meet for the first time in Africa’s greatest race, the R4.25-million, Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July on the first Saturday in July, but may also come up against one another in the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge as their final preparatory outings before the big one.
Hawwaam’s trainer, Mike de Kock, said after the race that his colt would still need to beat some even stronger opposition before being rated among some of the other top horses he had handled but added that both he and Soqrat, that had only managed fourth in the Grade 2 KRA Guineas on Friday night when jumping from the widest draw, would be entered for the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 and the Rising Sun Gold Challenge “depending on the draws”. He said he would not take them down to Durban for those races to start from wide draws.
Also making an impressive showing at the weekend were the two Justin Snaith stable runners, Do It Again and Made To Conquer, that were given a gallop over 1 400m at Greyville before Friday evening’s meeting. Made To Conquer set the steady pace with Do It Again “looking on” but when into the home straight the pair came together for a strong gallop to the finish, both looking very, very well and signalling that a repeat of their first and second places in last year’s Vodacom Durban July cannot be considered a pipe dream – in fact, the writer sensed that Do It Again was on a fairly tight rein in the closing stages of the encounter and judging from the way he looks and his form record, this is a very serious horse.
What this all shows at this early stage of Champions Season, is that some mighty thrilling racing is ahead of us over the next three months.
Images: Candiese Marnewick