Two contrasting meetings at Turffontein for the first two Saturdays of April — a week ago joy and celebration and this weekend sadness and remembrance.
At the previous weekend, punters (definitely not bookmakers) were ecstatic as the favourites arrived in the Triple Crown and Triple Tiara. However, it’s a different story this Saturday as racing remembers so many involved in the sport who were lost in the Hennenman air disaster 33 years ago.
On April 12 1988, a charter flight crashed in the Free State killing 13 jockeys, two owners, one trainer, five racing officials and three crew members.
Many people will reflect on where they were when the news of the accident filtered through. A good many were at the National Yearling Sales in Germiston — including this writer. I was reporting on the sales for Business Day (only in its third year) and there was a solemn mood in the press room.
It’s somewhat ironic that the feature race on Saturday — the Spook Express Handicap — is also a tale of sadness. After an excellent career in the care of Mike de Kock, the mare continued her career in the US and finished second in the Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf. From there she headed for The Matriarch at Hollywood Park where tragedy struck in the closing stages.
Spook Express slipped and fell close to the finishing line, broke a left fetlock joint and had to be euthanised. The mare had won 11 of her 21 starts and more than $1m in prize money.
Muzi Yeni would have left the city track in buoyant mood last Saturday for two reasons — happy to have piloted War Of Athena and Got The Greenlight to impressive wins and it also would not have done his bank balance any harm.
Trainer Robbie Sage uses Yeni for the majority of his runners so it is no surprise that the 33-year-old will be in the saddle on his Spook Express runner What A Cracker. This daughter of Where’s That Tiger went down in a photo-finish to Ocean Forest last time out and once again there may be precious little between the pair.
Sean Tarry’s three-year-old Aryaam has been marked up favourite on the strength of her win in the Oaks Trial in which Ideal Jet finished a close second. That form looks suspect in view of Ideal Jet’s finish 25 lengths behind Act Of War in the SA Oaks.
Smiley River represents trainer Phillip Labuschagne’s runner and could earn another cheque for owner Tommy Shawe. The filly has been placed in each of her last three starts.
One of the best races should be the second, which features an intriguing clash between Gallic Princess and recent Sycamore Sprint winner Tropic Sun. Amazingly, the former has not managed a win since downing Rio Querari at Greyville in July.
Tropic Sun’s form is another boost for her sire Skitt Skizzle and the judge may be needed at the end of this 1,100m sprint.
It is Grand National day (off at 6.15pm SA time) and this column’s three fancies in the 40-strong field are Kimberlite Candy, Secret Reprieve and 40-1 longshot Lord Du Mesnil. Tom Lacey trains Kimberlite Candy who won the Warwick Classic Chase by 10 lengths, while Secret Reprieve jumped superbly when winning the Welsh National.
Cloth Cap, rated 14lb ahead of the handicapper, is the short-priced 7-2 favourite and bids to give jockey Tom Scudamore his first win in the famous Aintree race.
1st Race: No Selection
2nd Race: (1) Gallic Princess (3) Tropic Sun (2) Sarah (4) Double ’O’ Eight
3rd Race: (7) I Dream Of Genie (1) Lady Of The Flame (4) Rose Willow (2) Princess Sabrina
4th Race: (2) Princess Thiana (4) Siren Of Greece (3) Arizona Lady (1) Electric Boots
5th Race: (6) Soldiers Song (2) Parallax (5) Black Thorn (10) Clarkson
6th Race: (5) Destinys Game (4) Lily Blue (6) Fort Anne (1) Saragon
7th Race: (6) She’s A Cracker (3) Ocean Forest (5) Aryaam (8) Smiley River
8th Race: (4) Puerto Manzano (5) Eliud (6) Herodotus (2) Riverstown
9th Race: (1) Ululate (3) Pin Up (4) Rock You (8) Making A Scene
1 Secret Reprieve
2 Kimberlite Candy
3 Lord Du Mesnil
4 Cloth Cap
* Secret Reprieve needs three horses to be withdrawn on Friday to be guaranteed a run.
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