Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH
Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH

A Summer Cup candidate is likely to be the star attraction at the 38-lot reduction-of-stock sale by trainer St John Gray at Randjesfontein training centre in Midrand on September 14. 

Five-year-old Christopher Robin, a recent scorer at Turffontein, is a seven-time winner so is likely to make the final line-up for the big Turffontein race at the end of November.

Lyle Hewitson was in the saddle when Christopher Robin beat Dr Doolittle at Turffontein on the first day of the new season and the horse also boasts wins over Astrix and Johnny Hero in the past 12 months.

It is admirable how Gray has consistently held his own against the big yards with mainly homebred horses. In the 2019/2020 season, he finished in 14th place in the national trainers log with 49 winners from 442 runners, and the 2020/2021 campaign saw him improve on those figures with 65 winners from 712 runners.

As one would expect from one of the most affable gentlemen in the training ranks, Gray is quite frank about his decision to reduce the numbers in his care.

“Basically, I am finding it too tough to run two operations, one at the Vaal and one at Randjesfontein. When we lost my dear friend Romeo Francis, I took over his Vaal yard with the help of Chantal Bowles. She has decided to leave racing, so this contributed to my decision to sell a good number of the horses,” said Gray.

“Also — while this game has been good for me for over 30 years — I’m now nearing 70 and it’s time to slow down. I also have youngsters coming in from the farm so it was time to put my thinking cap on,” he said.

The big bonus for buyers on Tuesday (noon start) is that the 38 lots are being sold without reserve. “Yes, they are being sold without reserve and I am a very realistic man who is fully aware of the economic climate and the rest. That said, stakes are going up 20% in a few weeks.”

There are some familiar names among the 38 lots in a sale being run by SA Bloodstock.

Putins Promise: This five-year-old son of Announce is a three-time winner. His most recent win came at the Vaal in June when Muzi Yeni partnered him to victory in an 84 merit-rated handicap. Two weeks earlier Yeni had also partnered him to a win over I Dream Of Genie.

Feather The Nest: She has finished fourth and second in her past two starts and has plenty of scope for improvement.

Strada Statale: This five-year-old mare finished third behind Me Time at Turffontein a fortnight ago.

Nabeela: “She is a well-related daughter of Silvano,” said Gray. She beat League Of Her Own by five lengths in October 2020 and in January was only two lengths behind stablemate Don’t Look Back at the Vaal.

Old Man Tyme: The four-time winning son of Announce ran third behind the talented Chimichuri Run at Turffontein in February.

Let’s Talk: This two-time winning four-year-old has only contested 12 races. He won on his most recent outing when beating Sekhmet at the Vaal at the end of June.

Romeo’s Magic: Probably the late Francis’s favourite horse and a four-time winning son of Elusive Fort, the stallion — the sire of Kommetdieding — was responsible for another good winner when Big Bling won last weekend’s Stakes at Turffontein.

Undisclosed: A recent update on this Announce gelding who — ridden by Hewitson — ran second behind Mercer Girl at Turffontein last Sunday.

Zulu War Cry: A four-year-old daughter of Act Of War who won her maiden at Turffontein in July. More recently finished four lengths behind Florida Keys at the Vaal.

Soul Of Wit: Another of Francis’s favourites, this six-year-old mare has won four races, with her latest success coming at Turffontein in mid-June when ridden by apprentice Nathan Klink.

El Romiache: This five-year-old gelding has posted thirds behind Irish Rain and Golden Tune in his past two appearances.

Other horses to come under the hammer include one-time winner Sitting Bull, Brenner Pass, Tartan Dancer, Bedouin Bride, Light Without, Grindelwald, Manitoba and Make A Penny.

“What are being offered are solid bread-and-butter horses who could well win three or four races in a minor centre like the Eastern Cape,” said Gray.

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