RISING SUN GOLD CHALLENGE (Garde 1)
Clairwood, Turf, 1600m
8 June 2013
The script was followed to the letter. Brilliant Variety Club won the R750,000 Rising Sun Gold Challenge easily Saturday at Clairwood, with second favourite Beach Beauty second and third favourite Pomodoro third.
Throughout the preliminaries and the 1600m race itself there didn’t seem to be flicker of doubt that things would go according to plan at Clairwood. Variety Club looked in magnificent nick, as did the big-hearted filly Beach Beauty and the rangy Pomodoro.
For those who enjoy seeing favourites toppled, it might all have seemed a bit boring. But a champion racehorse winning a Grade 1 race in scintillating style could never be boring to true racing fans. A huge crowd on course cheered Variety Club to the heavens as master jockey Anton Marcus steered him home to an eighth win in a row, his 14th in 19 starts, his sixth career Grade 1 and his second Gold Challenge.
Many thousands of people turned up at the Garden Course, with a car giveaway and Bollywood stars as added attractions. But the star of the show was undoubtedly Equus Horse Of The Year Variety Club and the main prize was seeing a phenomenal horse in action.
Ice Machine and Pierre Jourdan were sluggish leaving the gates - but not the Joey Ramsden-trained Variety Club, who shot straight into the lead and dictated a leisurely pace for the 10-strong field. Lake Arthur took up the second spot as they headed down the back stretch, followed by Hill Fifty Four, Beach Beauty, Festival Of Fire, Pomodoro on the inside rail, Whiteline Fever, Ice Machine, Master Plan and Pierre Jourdan. Jockey Sean Cormack eased the diminutive Beach Beauty into second position, ready to strike, as they rounded the left-hand bend. Lake Arthur remained prominent, with Pomodoro also edging forward, some 2.50 lengths of the coasting leader.
As they hit the straight, Beach Beauty made an early challenge, the intention clearly being to put Variety Club under pressure to see if he would buckle. No such luck. Marcus shook up the champ and he shot two lengths clear. About 350m out the contest was over. Variety Club (4-10) looked as cool as a cucumber as he strode to victory by two lengths. The Dennis Drier-trained Beach Beauty (9-2) once again showed what a courageous and consistent horse she is, plugging on to take second from Pomodoro (9-1).
Randjesfontein trainer Sean Tarry will have been very pleased with the form shown by both his charges, Pomodoro and Whiteline Fever (15-1). The latter ran on strongly into fourth place from near the back of the field. For these two, this was primarily a preparation run for next month’s Vodacom Durban July at Greyville and their odds for the big one might now slim down.
Tibouchina Stakes (Grade 2)
If the Gold Challenge lacked surprises, there were plenty in the second feature on the card, the Grade 2 R250,000 Rising Sun Tibouchina Stakes. Hot favourite Princess Victoria failed to make the first four placings as 28-1 chance Louvre won a good race from the front. Louvre has won two in a row since moving down from the Highveld to Duncan Howell’s yard in KwaZulu-Natal. The five-year-old Doowaley mare took up the running soon after the 1450m start, stretching into a two-length lead from Espumanti, Earth’s Orbit, Comtesse Dubois and King’s Temptress.
Princess Victoria travelled some five lengths back around the turn, just ahead of Happy Archer, Negev, Amur Affair and Halfway To Heaven, who was about 10 lengths off the pace. In the straight, Louvre maintained her advantage despite challenges from Espumanti, Earth’s Orbit, Happy Archer and Comtesse Dubois. Halfway To Heaven was starting to unwind a dangerous-looking challenge down the outside. Alec Forbes kept Louvre well balanced and stretching out in the final strides and she claimed it by half a length. Espumanti (11-1) just edged out Earth’s Orbit (16-1) for second, while the fast-finishing Halfway To Heaven (11-2) claimed fourth, just ahead of the disappointing Princess Victoria. Louvre has now won eight times from 31 starts.
Cup Trial (Grade 3)
The Grade 3 Cup Trial over 1800m saw veteran jockey Kevin Shea get the Charles Laird-trained Astro News (16-1) home with a smart ride, ahead of Bulsara, Territorial Waters and Punta Arenas.