Until last weekend R6m buy Charles had looked a decidedly costly investment. The son of Trippi had earned just R378,000 in 10 starts and a Brexit outcome appeared more likely than him recouping his purchase price.
It was not surprising that a consortium of mainly Irish owners — including John Magnier and Diane Nagle — went so high for the yearling offered by Drakenstein Stud. He was out of the Dynasty mare Demanding Lady who retired a five-time winner.
Unfortunately Charles’s attitude was similar to some overpaid professional footballers in the Premier League. He had the ability, but just did not produce it when it mattered.
Charles managed just one placing in his four outings during the Durban season and to say trainer Brett Crawford was frustrated would be an understatement.
“The decision was taken in August to geld him and he is now focused on what he is doing,” Crawford told Turftalk. That was evident in Saturday’s 1,400m race at Durbanvile when the four-year-old overcame a wide draw and left Vodacom July third Twist Of Fate trailing in his wake.
Diane Nagle, a great supporter of SA racing, was understandably delighted with the turnaround in her expensive buy. She tweeted: “Hopeful Charles will have a better attitude this season.”
Crawford revealed he will now aim Charles at November’s Cape Mile and — if he wins that race — he intends “taking on the big guns in the Queen’s Plate and Sun Met”.
“He only has a 111 merit-rating, so he is far behind the 130-plus stars,” he added.
With Do It Again, Soqrat and Haawwam in the field, a win in the Queen’s Plate is probably a big ask, but the Met is a different kettle of fish because he has no stamina limitations. His one placing during the Durban season was a second over 2,400m at Scottsville.
Now many punters love an ante-post wager and this column has spotted one bookmaking firm offering 5-2 for Charles to finish in the first six in the Met on February 1. That is the date after the latest Brexit deadline — and is probably a safer bet.
Local racing on Saturday is at Turffontein and punters have a banker in exotic bets in the three-year-old filly Gin Fizz who should win the fifth race with the minimum of fuss.
The Mike de Kock inmate has the highest merit-rating in the race and is set to receive 3kg from Sean Tarry’s runner Urban Rock. Green Top can earn a cheque but this should be plain sailing for Callan Murray on Gin Fizz.
Tarry should take the sixth race in which he holds a strong hand with the stable represented by African Rock, Pidgeon Rock and Piere Strydom’s mount Riga D’Ora. A 1-2-3 for the champion trainer is a distinct possibility.
It is much the same case in the seventh race in which Tarry again saddles a trio of runners — Culture Trip, Flash Burn and Sea Air. This suggests the yard will again be confident of taking top honours though Fabian Habib's lightly weighted three-year-old Segontium could mount a challenge.
1st Race: (1) Inside Politics (12) Willothewisp (2) African Savannah (3) Eppagili
2nd Race: (5) Cairon (1) G I Joe (2) Oyster King (7) Kool Baikal
3rd Race: (6) Fife (2) Eightfolds Lass (1) Aurelia Cotta (7) Twice A Lady
4th Race: (2) The Bosbok (5) Atomic Blonde (6) Rocky Path (4) Festive Linngari
5th Race: (7) Gin Fizz (4) Urban Rock (6) Green Top (5) Tiger's Rock
6th Race: (2) African Rock (3) Pidgeon Rock (9) Riga D’Ora (1) Tokyo Drift
7th Race: (4) Culture Trip (3) Flash Burn (10) Segontium (7) Sea Air
8th Race: (4) Marygold (6) Golden Spiral (10) Querari Ferrari (3) Jay Bomb
9th Race: (2) Before The Dawn (3) Arikel (10) Phillydelphia (7) Claremorris