TRAINER Charles Laird and jockey Anton Marcus clearly both have a soft spot for Delago Deluxe and the three-year-old colt will be even more of a favourite of theirs after his victory in the Grade 1 Golden Horse Casino Sprint (R600 000) at Scottsville on Saturday.
Starting at 5-1 and jumping from the No 3 gate on a track that favoured the inside draws, the Australian-bred son of Encosta De Lago was handily positioned throughout the 1200m journey and drew away to record a 1.25-length victory over Snowdon (22-1), who showed pluck in the run-in.
Running on for third and fourth were outsiders Shades of Indigo (40-1) and Copper Parade (55-1).
Favourite What A Winter (22-10) did not run any kind of race and finished 13th in the 16-horse field, 8.30 lengths behind the winner. Another fancied runner, Link Man, obviously had problems and was tailed off last.
In his post-race interview, Laird said: “It means a lot more to me, this win, than people realise.”
Marcus said: “It’s amazing what Charles has been able to do with this horse, to get him to improve,” adding, “I really enjoyed this one!”
The trainer and jockey comments were underlined by Derek Brugman, racing manager of owners Ingrid and Markus Jooste. He said Delago Deluxe is “like one of Charles’ children” and revealed that “Anton lost quite a bit of weight” in order to make the allotted 54kg.
Delago Deluxe has now won seven of 11 starts, including the Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Medallion at this Festival of Speed race meeting exactly a year ago.
Brugman indicated that the three-year-old colt has already been earmarked for a stud career – possibly in Australia.
Princess Victoria, a 9-10 favourite for the Grade 1 SA Fillies Sprint, disappointed the Scottsville punters by finishing seventh of 13. Drawn unfavourably at No 11, she was steered up the middle of the track throughout the 1200m by jockey Sean Cormack, with the bulk of the runners dicing it out on the inside rail.
Ebony Flyer (11-2) powered away from the bunch in the final 100m to win the R500 000 weight-for-age contest by a length from Welwitschia (18-10). She’s A Stunner (35-1) ran on for third, two lengths back and 0.50 lengths ahead of Chocolicious (25-1).
Before the race, trainer Justin Snaith said Ebony Flyer had recently undergone a second wind operation and this was intended as a “prep run” for the long KwaZulu-Natal season ahead. He also said it was likely to be on the sharp side for her.
Clearly the op has worked a charm and, if the four-year-old daughter of Jet Master comes on from this sterling effort, she could wreak havoc with the winter season.
The Grade 1Tsogo Sun Medallion (R500 000) for juveniles threw up a major surprise, with the Dennis Drier-trained Potent Power trotting up at 40-1 under veteran jockey Kevin Shea.
Drier commented that the result should not have come as such a surprise as the son of National Emblem had overcome useful opposition to win last time out. But, given the strong field ranged against him here, “everyone forgot about him”.
Potent Power won by 1.25-lengths from Straight Set (11-1), the sole filly contesting the race, with My Jelly Bean (22-1) third and Twitter (16-1) fourth.
All Is Secret (75-20 and drawn 2) put herself at the top of the juvenile fillies’ tree by capturing the Grade Allan Robertson Championship, for trainer Vaughan Marshall and jockey Anton Marcus.
Favourite Valdivia (13-10), who was unbeaten in three coming into this, could only manage third from a No 10 draw – just behind Franny (7-2) and marginally ahead of Counter Ridge (40-1).
All Is Secret is by Captain Al and has now won two of her three starts.