Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA
Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA

When Denis Schwarz was in grade 9 at Marais Viljoen High in Alberton, his stepfather took him to the Summer Cup. Little did the youngster know that he would return to Turffontein a few years later and emerge the hero of that same race. 

On Saturday, 20-year-old Schwarz looked to have precious little chance of winning the Gauteng Chris Gerber Summer Cup on 28-1 shot Zilzaal, but he rode the race of his young life to hold off the favourite, Soqrat.

The meeting was delayed for two hours because Turffontein officials had to call in the metro police to remove grooms from the track after they staged a sit-down protest near the winning post.

If it was a memorable meeting for Schwarz, it was equally so for champion trainer Sean Tarry. Not only did he saddle first and third in the Cup but he won three other races, including the grade 2 Dingaans with another outsider, Shango.

Nevertheless, many pundits and punters were left shaking their heads as one could not argue with Computaform’s comment on Zilzaal, which stated: “flat second run as a gelding”. The colt had started favourite for the R1m Charity Mile.

Saturday’s victory meant Tarry completed a Summer Cup hat-trick after wins by Liege in 2017 and Tilbury Fort in 2018.

Tarry, who saddled four runners in the R2m race, had not only got his charges in tip-top condition, but had a tactic for the 2,000m race as well. “I knew we had to get the [Mike] De Kock horses to carry their weight and we did.”

The champion trainer was full of praise for the front-running ride by Schwarz. “He’s ridden a top race.”

Soqrat’s narrow defeat prevented a bad result for the bookies as numerous punters put their money on the Aussie-bred colt to help pay for festive expenses.

In that regard, at least Business Day helped its readers. A fortnight ago our headline stated: “Take Queen Supreme to double your Christmas bonus.” The four-year-old finished fourth so place punters were in the payout queue.

A poor draw — he jumped from stall 14 — was a contributing factor in Soqrat’s defeat. The last runner to win from a double-digit barrier gate was Wagner in 2012. In addition, an internationally bred runner has not won the Cup for 11 years. The last to taste success was Strategic News in 2007. There were six overseas-bred horses in Saturday’s field.

In this column’s preview of the Cup on Friday, another Tarry hopeful, Al Mutawakel, was selected to finish third and that was the finishing position of the Silvano colt, who was having only the sixth start of his career. He could be a lively contender in the 2020 Vodacom Durban July.

Though the Irish-bred filly Queen Supreme looked the likely winner 300m out, the import ran out of gas in the closing stages to suggest the trip may have been too far.

Tarry did bookies another turn when jockey Gavin Lerena piloted outsider Shango to victory in the Dingaans. Tarry would probably admit that his best chance lay with Eden Roc, yet it was his stablemate who came up trumps.

Form pundits rated the grade 2 contest as a four-cornered contest between Eden Roc, Frosted Gold, Promiseofamaster and the heavily backed Marshall. This column’s view was that Marshall’s form was not good enough and many backers burnt their fingers on the Vercingetorix colt.