Eric Sands was standing social-distancing yardage away from the new Summerhill Equestrian owner Henning Pretorius during the running of the recent Grade 1 WSB Champions Cup at Hollywoodbets Greyville and after his pair, the half-brothers Golden Ducat and Rainbow Bridge, had flashed past the post together he turned to congratulate him.
“That is what you came to see!” he understated.
Pretorius recently bought the pair’s half-brother for R7 million.
The latter, a Wilgerbosdrift and Mauritzfontein Stud-bred Silvano colt called Celestial City, is a full-brother to another of the illustrious siblings, the multiple Grade 1-winner Hawwaam.
Sands said, “When you own one horse you own the whole family.”
In other words, results effect the value of a horse’s siblings.
Sands believes Pretorius has made a shrewd purchase.
Should Celestial City win a Grade 1 he will likely recoup his costs at stud quite quickly, such is the demand for the blood of his super broodmare mother Halfway To Heaven.
Golden Ducat and Rainbow Bridge are currently enjoying a well deserved break on the luscious Soetendal farm of Julia Pilbeam, but the later than usual finish to the SA Champions Season means their holiday will be short-lived.
Their chief target for the Cape Summer Season will be the Sun Met but Sands has not yet decided which route they will take into their other likely big engagement, the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.
Donavan Dillon is still finalising a move to Australia, but Sands hinted he would keep the ride on Golden Ducat if he was still in the country.
He said, “What has he done wrong?”
Sands does swap jockeys if necessary but elaborated, “If jockeys don’t come and ride work or if they are not suited to the horse, I will take them off.”
Golden Ducat and Rainbow Bridge are the first siblings to finish one-two in a Grade 1 race in South Africa since half-brothers Hawaii and William Penn did so in the Champion Stakes over 2000m at Greyville in August 1968.
Sands pulled off a magnificent training feat, especially considering the ultra hard races the pair had endured in the Vodacom Durban July.
That the July was run at a furious pace is well documented but the sectionals provided by Jay August for the Champions Cup makes that fact even more interesting. From the start of the July to the 1000m pole the leader ran at an average of approximately 5,67 seconds per 100 metres, whereas in the Champions Cup, despite it being a 400 metre shorter section, the average per 100m up to the 1000m mark was approximately 6,08s.
The latter pace equates to a fair but not searching pace.
The fact that Golden Ducat, who raced without cover just behind the furious pace, fought on to finish a 1,90 length fourth in the July showed just what a good horse he is and Rainbow Bridge, who tracked the latter, also did remarkably well to finish only 2,75 lengths back carrying top weight.
Golden Ducat then confirmed what a good horse he is in the Champions Cup as different tactics were adopted and he came from a long way back to pip the highest rated horse in the land, Rainbow Bridge, on weight for age terms as opposed to the 7kg he had received in the July.
Sands said, “I made no secret of my opinion that Golden Ducat had come on from his July run, and he had also learnt how to race at Greyville, and that Rainbow Bridge had tended to run a bit flat in his second run after a layoff.”
Sands had also opined before the Champions Cup that there was little separating his pair, which had raised a few eyebrows considering Rainbow Bridge was rated 12 points higher.
However, he was proved a hundred percent correct as Golden Ducat swooped late to beat his more celebrated stablemate by a whisker.
The pundits who had billed it a two-horse race between Rainbow Bridge and Do It Again had to eat humble pie.
However, Sands has kept his feet on the ground and said, “To beat the like of Rainbow Bridge on weight for age terms a horse has to be at the top of his game. But it is aways easy afterwards, so I don’t want to be get big headed about it, I am just grateful for the win.”
Sands did keep the game plan close to his chest before the Champions Cup, with the only hint that he would revert to hold up tactics with Golden Ducat being when he commented that this big horse tended to “oil” a touch too much when racing without cover.
He said today, “I wanted to teach him with the Met in mind, although I didn’t expect him to be behind Do It Again. He did race from off them in the Cape Derby (and ran on well to win). In his first run at Greyville he was green and didn’t handle the turn and was cocking his jaw and he didn’t learn from that in his second start. But a change of noseband sorted that out for the July. But I don’t know whether I made a faux pas in the July (tactically).”
Sands is definitely not taking the Met for granted and said, “Belgarion has done nothing wrong and Got The Greenlight beat Golden Ducat twice, although Golden Ducat was not quite at home on the track yet in those defeats.”
Mike Rattray was thrilled to see his colours cross the line first and second in the Champions Cup.
Sands praised the magnanimity of Mary Slack for allowing Rattray to buy a share in Golden Ducat and added how blessed South African racing was to have her and her family involved in the sport.
He concluded, “Although Mr Rattray did buy him to win the July.”
The owning and breeding doyen’s lifetime dream was thwarted yet again but, surmising he has said “Maybe next year” umpteen times in the past, there could well be more optimism attached to those words than ever before.