NICCI GARNER: THE adage play the game, not the man is ringing true for Tyrone Zackey in the wake of last Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July. Zackey’s “big horse’’ Smanjemanje, hampered three times, flew at the finish of the country’s premier race and was beaten a whisker into second by Pomodoro.
“We were the winner half a stride after the post,’’ mourned Zackey, who then declared: “Jeff Lloyd cost us the July! If it wasn’t for him, Smanjemanje would probably have won it by a length.
“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a little yard like mine (Zackey only has 25 horses). I’d been planning it since he went down to run in the Met at the Cape – an experience he didn’t enjoy. This kind of opportunity will probably never happen again because I don’t have same capital as the top trainers.’’
He also believes that certain comments made on television prior to the Durban July went beyond the pale. “A couple of people said that Smanjemanje should not even be in the line-up, but unfortunately some of the comments were personal. That kind of talk can result in a trainer losing owners.
“Anyway, Smanjemanje’s form is there in black and white – he is Grade 1 placed and holds the course record for 1800m on the standside track at Turffontein – so deserved his place in the field. And my boy proved that in the race. So, EAT YOUR WORDS!
“I don’t know whether to be happy or sad,’’ he continued. “Happy that he proved himself or sad because he should have won the race.’’
Certainly, Smanjemanje must go down as one of the unluckiest losers in the Durban July. About 550m out on the apex of the triangular Greyville track, Beach Beauty, ridden by Sean Cormack, shifted out slightly and brushed Smanjemanje’s hind-quarters. Zackey’s runner became “momentarily unbalanced’’, according to the official stipendiary stewards’ report.
Then, with Smanjemanje building into full cry at around the 300m pole, jockey Jeff Lloyd aboard Chesalon shifted in on to the 55-1 chance. As Smanjemanje started recovering from that at around the 200m pole, Chesalon again shifted on to him and jockey Grant van Niekerk had to take another hold. Smanjemanje got balanced up again and started mowing them down, but the post came a fraction of a second too soon.
“Smanjemanje is a big-striding horse and all three of those incidents made him hesitate,’’ said Zackey. “Grant had to get his action going again and had to give him a few reminders. Eventually, he just couldn’t get to the other one.’’
Those “reminders’’ cost Van Niekerk seven days on the sidelines in terms of the “excessive use of the crop’’ rules, a punishment Zackey believes is unfair in light of Lloyd and Cormack not even being reprimanded for the roles they played in “getting Smanjemanje beat’’.
Some good might still come out of the experience for Zackey, who has fielded a few calls from overseas patrons looking to send him horses.
Smanjemanje will be given a holiday now and be aimed at the Sansui Summer Cup in early December.