Turffontein, 27 April 2013
Superstition abounds in racing. Fans have “lucky” hats they wear on the racecourse. Many refuse to wear anything green. Even the great Terrance Millard, trainer of six Durban July winners, had a pair of lucky socks.
I met a trainer who wore the same pair of red underpants whenever his horses competed. It paid off as he won the Summer Cup, though by then those rods were in tatters.
A partner owner of mine believed his mere presence was a jinx on winning and, at race time, would walk resolutely off the course into the nearby café for a few puffs on a fag as our horse galloped. The nag won just twice from dozens of starts but, for my mate, that was evidence enough of the efficacy of his strategy.
Such mysterious forces don’t usually bother me. But I am a little concerned that lately when I’ve written about horses or connections ahead of a race, they’ve failed to meet expectations.
The highlight of today’s Champions Day meeting at Turffontein is the bid by Cherry On The Top to claim the Triple Tiara by winning the Wilgerbosdrift Stud SA Oaks - completing three victories in the daunting series.
Ormond Ferraris, trainer of Cherry On The Top, recently chased a TV camera crew from his yard, apparently because he didn’t want to be jinxed by media hype.
So, given my record and Ferraris’ sensitivities, I’m loath to write about the big moment.
I won’t dwell on how bookmakers are offering prohibitive odds of 1/6 on Mary Slack, Wilgerbosdrift’s owner and sponsor of the Oaks and Triple Tiara, handing the R1million series bonus cheque to her very own mum - Cherry On The Top’s owner Bridget Oppenheimer.
I won’t witter about keeping it in the family. Anyway, I’m sure Mary won’t appreciate jokes about her mother not needing the extra few bob. After all, Mary has said the sponsorship is to encourage the breeding of quality fillies in an industry she cares fervently about - and she clearly never had mater in mind when she got out her purse.
I’ll also not drone on about Mrs O’s record of a dozen or so wins in the Oaks, dating back 50 years.
Instead, I’ll focus on the host of other big races. In the President’s Champions Challenge, where anything could win, I’m going for Master Plan (16/1) and Shogunnar (6/1). Sorry for that.
Red Ray (5/10), in the SA Nursery, is rumoured to be dynamite and watching a potential superstar in action might be worth the visit to Turfies on its own.
In the SA Derby, bookies reckon Tellina (16/10) is a shoo-in, though I caution that any of the maturing three-year-olds might relish the gruelling 2450m they’re trying for the first time. Wylie Hall at 8/1?
Then there’s the Computaform Sprint. But, go on, you place your own curses.
Extract from The Times