Champion trainer and patron win lion’s share of prize money, writes Jimmy Lithgow at Turffontein
THE Gauteng Autumn Feature Season culminated at Turffontein yesterday with Champion’s Day, featuring total prize money of more than R7-million. A few established superstars flopped but, for trainer Michael De Kock and owner Mary Slack, it was a red-letter day.
The first of the four Grade 1 races was the SA Nursery Plate and De Kock saddled the 8-10 favourite, Soft Falling Rain, who did not disappoint. Anton Marcus piloted the unbeaten son of National Assembly to an effortless 4½-length victory over Ziparana, with Port Elizabeth challenger Greenacre third.
The Computaform Sprint was expected to be at the mercy of KwaZulu-Natal mare Val De Ra, but she trailed in last and was found to be coughing and bleeding from the lungs. Champion JJ The Jet Plane also disappointed, finishing 15 lengths behind Geoff Woodruff’s Shea Shea.
Shea Shea, winner of last year’s Grade1 Golden Horseshoe at Scottsville, won under Piere Strydom to the delight of owners Brian Joffe and Myron Berzack.
The stamina-sapping SA Derby, over 2450m, produced a controversial finish. Royal Bencher, under Anton Marcus, was collared by Pomodoro, under jockey log leader Gavin Lerena in the dying strides, with the judge declaring a dead heat. However, Pomodoro had shifted sharply outwards, giving Royal Bencher a hefty thump, and the stipendiary stewards lodged an objection. This was overruled after a lengthy hearing, and the connections of the two horses shared the combined first and second stakes, totalling R1237500.
The last of the Grade 1 events to be contested was the R2-million President’s Champion Challenge over 2000m. Mary Slack, who won this race with champion grey mare Ilha Da Vitoria a few years ago, repeated the success with the outstanding Irish-bred filly Europa Point, a relatively easy winner over the Tyrone Zackey pair, Galanthus and Smanjemanje, to claim a second Grade 1 win on the trot. Slack had earlier won the Grade 2 Camellia Stakes with Welwitschia and she crowned a wonderful afternoon with a runaway victory by Ilha Bela, a daughter of the diminutive Ilha Da Vitoria, in the Grade 2 SA Oaks and an equally easy victory by Gorongoza in the Grade 2 Gold Bowl.
All four of the Slack winners were trained by De Kock.
Article source: http://www.sportlive.co.za/moresport/other/article4806311.ece