JACK MILNER: “BLINKER STRIKES’’ – when a horse is fitted with blinkers for the first time – often make punters sit up and take notice. However, when the blinkers are removed it can be equally beneficial.
That was demonstrated by In Writing (11-1) at Greyville on Saturday as he fought out a duel with Princess Of Light (33-1) to win the Ladbrokes Gold Cup. He beat Geoff Woodruff’s filly by 0.75 lengths with Blake (11-2) the same distance back in third. Fourth place went to Gold Vase winner Seal (13-1) with Gorongosa (5-1) fifth and Thanks John (50-1) sixth.
The race proved a triumph for both jockey Felix Coetzee, who rode his record eighth winner in this race, and trainer Dean Kannemeyer, who saddled both the winner and third-placed runner. It was an amazing training feat as In Writing was out of action for almost a year with a tendon injury.
“A lot of horses don’t come back after they’ve done a tendon,’’ said Kannemeyer. “His last run, when second to Seal in the Gold Vase, was terrific. I didn’t have him fit.
“Since we’ve taken off the blinkers he has not looked back.’’
As was the case on Durban July Day horses battled to come from off the pace and it is interesting to note that the first four past the post were first, second, fourth and fifth after the field had gone 400m. Princess Of Light, who trainer Geoff Woodruff said would be having her last run, led early from In Writing, Vettel, Seal and Blake, who was perfectly placed on the fence from pole position.
Jockey Piere Strydom, sensing that the back markers would battle to get into the race, moved Kolkata around the field and by the time they were 700m from home, he was challenging Princess Of Light for the lead.
However, once they came for home the Var filly quickly regained her advantage and only In Writing became danger. He got to her in the final 1000m and drew off to win well.
“He got a nice jump and I had to ask him a little bit to get up to the front. I was dictating nicely along the back stretch and then Marthinus (Mienie on Princess Of Light) didn’t want to wait any longer and he went around me and then slowed it up a bit. I was just on his heels and I thought any minute now, I was going to hear this clip.
“I wasn’t too concerned because he was travelling very nicely within himself. And when Piere came and then put me right in the box seat, I was thrilled. It was just a case of letting him down to run off the false rail.
“This horse was just super fit on the day. Congratulations to Dean – he’s done a splendid job with the horse. I believe he has come back from a tendon (injury) and he’s got the horse absolutely tuned to the minute. He ran his race, he ran right to the line and I never even gave him a smack. And it was really, really a great thrill for me.’’
Three other Grade 1 races were run on the day and trainer Greg Ennion once again will be able to argue his case that Master Plan deserved his place in the Vodacom Durban July field. The Grade 2 Gold Circle Derby winner added the Grade 1 Champions Cup to his record as he came home strongly to beat Black Wing by a short head. Third went to Solo Traveller with Tales Of Bravery fourth.
Master Plan started at 11-1 while Black Wing was well supported from 16-1 to 9-1.
Buy And Sell set a fast pace from Tales Of Bravery with Black Wing in third. Muzi Yeni had Master Plan in the bunch some eight lengths of the leaders but once in the straight, set him alight. Black Wing looked to have it in the bag but Yeni was not to be denied and got his mount’s head up on the line. “You know what they say. You can shake a bottle of milk as much as you like but the cream always rises to the top,’’ laughed Yeni.
Trainer Corne Spies was hoping for a juvenile Grade 1 double with Straight Set (Thekwini Stakes) and War Horse (Premier’s Champion Stakes) but was left disappointed. Straight Set took the lead under Coetzee at the top of the straight but Anton Marcus quickly moved up on All Is Secret (5-2) and raced past the 1-1 favourite to win by 1.75 lengths. Third place went to Careful Hiker with King’s Temptress in fourth.
“I didn’t envisage being so far back,’’ said Marcus. “She never broke clean and I had a maiden drawn one who had equal gate speed. I was reluctant to follow her through so I latched on to King’s Temptress who also didn’t do me any favours.
“My filly was over-racing a tad but it takes a good one to get you out of trouble.’’
War Horse was under a ride quite a long way out but Black Toga looked to have a winning advantage until Strydom moved up to challenge on The Hangman (10-1). Although racing green, the Jallad gelding went on to beat Black Toga (13-10) by 2.25 lengths with Love Struck (35-1) third and Heavenisaracehorse in fourth.
“This is more his trip,’’ said Strydom, “and getting out well this time helped the cause. He looked fantastic and I said to Sean (Tarry) in the ring that I wasn’t sure if we had the best horse in the race but we certainly had the best-looking horse.’’