For excitement Turffontein trumps the narrow score in Paris
Sorry, sports fans. The finish by two ultra-smart three-year-olds in the Betway Graham Beck Stakes at Turffontein on Saturday trumps the nail-biting end of the Rugby World Cup in Paris six hours later.
Every sport does its best to promote itself with tempting offers, but at the end of the day it's the players who matter in rugby and the horse in horseracing.
Those who ventured to the city track were rewarded with a fascinating head-to-head duel over the final 250m between Main Defender and Sandringham Summit with the former getting his head down on the line to take the grade 3 race.
One could say both Turffontein and Paris served up short-head verdicts.
Winning trainer Tony Peter was aware the race had been billed as a match in the media. He sportingly paid credit to the runner-up and then hit the nail on the head by commenting: "We gave the crowd what they wanted to see — that's what they got. It wasn't a grade 1 race but felt like one to us."
So the score between Main Defender and Sandringham Summit is 1-1 and racing fans are licking their lips speculating on their next encounter.
Hopefully, it could come in the Cape Guineas in December because that has been the stepping stone for many top performers. Charles Dickens beat Cousin Casey at odds of 46-100 in last year's race.
A flood of money on Saturday saw Main Defender sent off at 91-100 and the son of Pathfork paid only R1.30 on the tote. The boxed exacta was probably the safest bet and paid R2.50.
Mike de Kock's colt always looked likely to settle for the third cheque of R40,000 and so it proved. This R800,000 son of Gimmethegreenlight had the misfortune to be born in the same year as two outstanding thoroughbreds.
Big spending owner, Lawrence Wernars, was in Paris for the rugby and it's likely he felt the Boks were a safer wager than his runner, Puerto Manzano, in the R1m Allied Steelrode Charity Mile at Turffontein.
The draw had been unkind to Wernars' nine-time winner, but two factors combined for another big payday for the Argentinian-bred import — his love of the track and the expertise of Gavin Lerena.
It meant a cheque for R100,000 went to the SA Riding for The Disabled (SARDA) which was the charity paired with trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren's six-year-old.
Presumably, Lerena was offered the choice between last year's winner, Bingwa, and Puerto Manzano and — if this was the case — he chose correctly.
Despite the advantage of pole position, Bingwa, chasing a hat-trick in this popular event, never threatened to get involved and had to settle for fifth place.
Cousin Casey — making his debut for the Sean Tarry stable — was well supported and 200m out looked certain to at last reward his loyal supporters. The fact remains that the son of Vercingetorix hasn't won in six outings this year, but he has put his hat firmly in the ring for the Betway Summer Cup.
Both trainer Brett Crawford and jockey Kabelo Matsunyane — the winning rider in the Graham Beck — will be pleased with the fourth-placed finish of Durban July winner, Winchester Mansion.
The new Cup market has the Crawford inmate clear second favourite at 11-2 behind the 4-1 shot, Puerto Manzano. Bless My Stars — another top effort on Saturday to follow her third placing in the July — is at 13-2 with Cousin Casey at 7-1.
On a largely disappointing afternoon for the De Kock stable, the many-times champion trainer had to be disappointed with the no shows of Safe Passage and top-weight, Dave The King. Both finished five lengths behind the winner.
Both horses are now into double figures for the Summer Cup and there's only four weeks for De Kock to turn the form around.
Roy Magner's runner Melech — backed in from 16-1 to 10-1 — didn't appear to get the smoothest of passages and had to settle for sixth place. This will have disappointed his regular pilot, Muzi Yeni.
No question that Lerena was "man of the match" with four winners and — at the conclusion of a truly memorable day — 4Racing CEO, Fundi Sithebe, had no doubt the sport had delivered on one of its biggest days of the year.
She said: "The Allied Steelrode OnaMission Charity Mile was simply sensational and a fantastic advert for the highveld with hugely competitive racing watched by wonderful crowds."
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