Muzi Yeni riding Got the Green Light wins at Turffontein, Johannesburg. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES
Muzi Yeni riding Got the Green Light wins at Turffontein, Johannesburg. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES

In the year that a black jockey won the Vodacom Durban July for the first time, Muzi Yeni made this comment in an interview: “It’s the thought of finding the next special horse that will carry me into the Grade Ones — and ultimately the July — that inspires me.”

In 2013 jockey S’manga Khumalo won the July on Heavy Metal and — after Saturday’s victory by Got The Greenlight in the 4Racing Premier’s Champion Stakes at Turffontein — Yeni has bright prospects of following in his footsteps by taking SA’s most famous race on July 3.

Yeni has found his special horse in four-year-old Got The Greenlight. Trained at the city track by Joe Soma, the son of Gimmethegreenlight took the R450,000 first prize by beating two outsiders, Second Base and Cirillo.

Bookmaker’s reaction was to cut Got The Greenlight’s July price to 4-1 from 6-1.

A post-race objection lodged on behalf of the runner-up, Second Base, by jockey Gavin Lerena meant a nervous wait for the winner’s connections before their colt’s eighth career win could be confirmed.

Lerena complained that Yeni had caused interference to his mount 600m out, but the protest was overruled by the stipendiary board. However, they refunded the deposit, suggesting an incident had taken place.

Perhaps the one disappointment on the day was that an expected three-horse war — billed as possibly “the race of the century” by one on-course presenter — never materialised. A flood of money saw three-year-old Malmoos start a heavily backed 5-4 favourite, but jockey Luke Ferraris was throwing out distress signals 300m out and Mike de Kock’s colt trailed in fifth, six and a half lengths behind the winner.

It seems probable that a hard year, which has seen the Captain Al colt compete in the Cape and win the Triple Crown, has taken its toll. He looks unlikely to contest the July.

Last season’s horse-of-the-year Summer Pudding did not fare much better and finished fourth, four and a half lengths behind Got The Greenlight. Paul Peter’s early worry that the race had come too soon after the Empress Club Stakes may have been correct.

On the form book, it was impossible for punters to make a case for runner-up Second Base who had finished five lengths adrift of Malmoos in the SA Derby. His starting price of 100-7 is a reflection of that.

So hats off to the gelding’s trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren, as Second Base also contested all three legs of the Triple Crown. The three-year-old is also a son of Gimmethegreenlight, who has proved as big a hit at stud as The Beatles and Rolling Stones with their songs in the sixties.

Though Sean Tarry had a winnerless meeting — a rarity for the champion trainer — he will be delighted with the effort of third-placed Cirillo, who is assured of a place in the July field.

Meticulous planning had gone into the day’s racing, which saw the launch of the new operator 4Racing. Everyone — including visiting trainers Justin Snaith, Candice Bass-Robinson and Brett Crawford — were singing from the same hymn book in praising 4Racing for their new appointments and the way the meeting went like clockwork.

Snaith saddled his top-class speedster Rio Querari for the other grade 1 race on the card, the R750,000 Computaform Sprint. The son of Querari shifted into top gear like a Ferrari when asked to go and win the race by his rider Grant van Niekerk.

During the meeting, Snaith explained why his previous forays to the highveld had been few and far between. “When I visited here previously, I asked myself why I was doing it. People were arrogant and the vibe was terrible. But today it’s completely different.”

Both Rio Querari and Got The Greenlight rewarded their followers and put them in the payout queue. In strict contrast to the big race in the UK — the 2000 Guineas — which was won by a 16-1 outsider. 

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