Rattray’s sights set on Durban July triumph
Successful breeder’s Rainbow Bridge is favourite to win SA’s most famous race
For a man with so many notable achievements in this country, there is still unfinished business.
Former Mala Mala Game Reserve owner and racehorse breeder Mike Rattray wants his colours carried to victory in SA’s most famous race, the Durban July.
Money might not be able to bring you everything but it can buy you a top thoroughbred, and Rattray has dished out several million rand to acquire this season’s Sun Met winner, Rainbow Bridge.
The purchase of the four-year-old, previously owned by the late Chris Gerber, who himself yearned for a July winner, was made for an undisclosed sum. The figure being bandied around in racing circles is R8m.
But as one wag put it, “Rattray won’t know it’s left his account.” And that’s probably fair comment considering he sold Mala Mala to the government for R1bn in 2013 and three years later sold his remaining equity stake in the game reserve to Stephen Saad, owner of Kirkman’s Kamp.
Although Rattray’s greatest achievement has been to make Mala Mala a “must” destination for global wildlife enthusiasts — the many big name visitors include world-renowned jockey Frankie Dettori — he can also be applauded for bringing the Santa Gertrudis cattle breed to SA.
He successfully ran one of the country’s top studs, Lammerskraal, which he sold two years ago. Rattray imported the choicely bred stallion Western Winter to Lammerskraal and the son of Gone West was champion sire three times and produced several top-class performers, including Yard-Arm, What A Winter, Winter Solstice and Capetown Noir.
It was Yard-Arm who gave Rattray and his wife, Norma, their biggest thrill in racing with their home-bred victorious in the 2004 J&B Met.
Most racing pundits have Rainbow Bridge, who is to remain with trainer Eric Sands, pencilled in as a likely victor of this year’s Vodacom Durban July and the late Chris Gerber would be happy that his champion will race for someone with a huge passion for the sport.
Provided the rain stays away — Tuesday’s meeting was switched to Turffontein — the Vaal will host a nine-race card on Thursday with Robbie Sage’s sprinter, Dewali, selected to notch an overdue second win in the first leg of the jackpot.
A son of Var, Dewali has been placed in his two outings this year and should now be ready to take top honours for owners Sylvia Vrska and Colin Bird.
Muzi Yeni, Dewali’s regular pilot, will be expecting challenges from Lyle Hewitson on Purple Diamond and apprentice Jason Gates on Sugoi.
The fourth race — an Assessment Plate over 1,000m — also affords the opportunity of a horse to chalk up a second win. Deerupt, a daughter of top Australian sire Snitzel, carries bottom weight and should go close in the hands of jockey Randall Simons.
Several runners are coming off maiden wins and they include Mr Whatson, Chief Of State, Pieces Of Gold and Fire And Rescue. While the trip will be on the short side for the last-named, the four-year-old is likely to be running on in the closing stages.
One of Soft Falling Rain’s progeny got rolled over at odds of 1-4 at Turffontein last Saturday, but another of his daughters, Montreal Mist, should start at a more attractive price in the second race.
The runner with the best form is Palace Of Dreams, so the market will be the best guide to see if Sean Tarry’s debutante is fancied to score at the first time of asking.
1st Race: No Selection
2nd Race: (4) Montreal Mist (6) Palace Of Dreams (9) Tungsten (5) Nymeria
3rd Race: (2) The Litigator (1) Born Rich (6) Smart Deal (4) Elliptical
4th Race: (9) Deerupt (3) Robberg Express (4) Mr Whatson (5) Chief Of State
5th Race: (2) Dewali (1) Purple Diamond (7) Sugoi (6) Galactic Warrior
6th Race: (7) Rings And Things (2) Che Bella (4) Generous Notion (3) Twelve Oaks
7th Race: (9) Dream On (2) Mrs O (4) Gimme Hope Johanna (7) Only To Win
8th Race: (1) Manhattan Cocktail (9) Savannah King (7) Master Builder (5) Grindelwald
9th Race: (5) Peace Call Me (6) O Lucky Man (3) Baahir (18) Street Flyer