GIBRALTAR Blue and Perana produced out-of-this-world runs to land the two feature races staged at Turffontein’s standside track on Friday night.
Four-year-old filly Gibraltar Blue landed running in the Listed Gardenia Handicap over 1000m, took command and raced away to win by 4.25-lengths, above expectations.
Three-year-old Perana, a temperamental one-time winner from three starts who hadn’t seen a racecourse in three-and-half-months, crushed a field consisting of Grade 1 winners and seasoned handicappers in the Grade 2 Victory Moon Handicap over 1800m. The manner of his win was nothing short of sensational. (Perana, in Bernard Kantor’s pink and blue silks sported by Anthony Delpech, to the left on headline photo)
Gibraltar Blue was beautifully turned out and impressive on the canterdown, but Mike felt that 1000m would be too short, saying, “I’d be happy with a place. There is plenty of speed in the race, they will be flying. I hope to see Gibraltar Blue running at them late.”
Her rivals included a number of fillies known for their fleet-footedness but Gibraltar Blue’s dominance of this sprint was so immediate that, in the post-race words of jockey Anton Marcus, “she was a winner after only a furlong!”
Mike, who watched the early part of the race on a TV monitor in the “Fun Box” on Turffontein’s grandstand, was quite astonished that a filly who had already shown an unusual depth of talent could produce so much more from her vault of sheer ability after a four-and-a-half month rest of her own.
Gibraltar Blue won with her ears pricked and stopped the clock in a way above average 55.9 seconds and he commented: “When Anton got off he remarked that we have a top sprinter on our hands. I reminded him that he’d already won a Guineas on her! She’s classy, a superb filly. We’ll be looking at the Queen’s Plate as her target.” He thanked Markus Jooste, John Koster and the team of Klawervlei Stud, the owners of Gibraltar Blue, for their valued support.
Gibraltar Blue, in a race of her own.
Perana recorded a win so breathtaking that every replay of the Victory Moon Handicap drew renewed gasps of appreciation from groups of viewers assembled in the immediate vicinity of plasma screens as well as the more traditional 64cm cheapies. The race will long be referred to, long remembered.
He’s “green as grass” – to use a common but fitting expression once coined by an on-course presenter – and raced keenly to the front before dropping his head, steadying his action and quietly plotting his own interpretation of the most scenic route home.
In due course Perana found himself towing 15 well-achieved campaigners into the straight, not the ideal position to be in, but professionally contemplated all the same.
Jockey Anthony Delpech had minded this machine-with-a-will-of-his-own once before and knew more (or less) what was to be expected. He had a feasible game plan entailing a silent compromise between man and beast! If Perana was to be as kind as to carry Delpech to the starting stalls in one piece, the jock, in turn, would allow enough slip of rein for the colt to employ his big, lobbing stride almost at will.
In theory, the Boy From the Island had it all figured out. For three-quarters of the race Perana stuck devotedly to the telepathic promise made to his forgiving rider and after negotiating the last bend to freedom he kept his smokescreen drawn long enough to bring strong visions of a plan perfectly executed within the tangible range of his fellow-schemer.
Perana sailed nicely balanced into the last 400m. To this point, there was no need for Delpech to do anything but set his sails calmly to the gentle breeze blowing at their tail. The colt’s as yet untapped strength was readily at the hoop’s hand. They were poised to break away from a brigade in which any number of blowing old-timers, sensing embarrassment, were starting to gather their possessions for a swift escape down the chute already visible in the distance, more or less parallel to Eloff Street Extention.
Suddenly, a lapse of concentration hit Perana like a Mike Tyson punch landing heavily on an opponent’s rib cage, and rudely interrupted the rhythmic flow of this graded contest.
Perana took a look around and swerved to his outside, crossing several lanes of approaching traffic. To make matters worse he decided that grinding to a halt was the most suitable way to express his apparent boredom! He slowed down so quick that lonesome Cracker Jack, under pressure and bound for the event’s back door, became the subject of one of racing’s rare phenomenona – the clipping of a fading rivals heels whilst on a swift retreat himself!
The side-on view, courtesy of the grandstand camera, suggested that the perceived heel-clipping might conceivably also have been the world’s first thoroughbred tango, performed with a maturity beyond his years by one rebel youth named Perana.
Realizing, perhaps, that he was starting to push the patient limits of his elders, the now borderline bewildered colt miraculously avoided a collision with Cracker Jack, using footwork so nifty that Fred Astaire, thousands of miles away in his Oakwood Memorial Park Home, performed history’s first 360-degree flop, underground!
In what might well be assigned to historic annals for the sake of posterity, the festive crowd witnessed another modern-day miracle when Perana regained his composure as quickly as he’d lost it. |
While his schoolboy antics were in process, half the field had caught up and were now racing away from the momentarily shell-shocked youngster at whip-cracking speed. Lesser tho’breds would have thrown in the towel and their riders would have dropped their hands as if defeat was simply a matter of course.
Perana, however, reversed his misfortunes in a motion so fluent it resembled the instantaneous transformation of actor Jim Carrey into a manic cartoon character in the movie, The Mask!
A brief head-on view showed Perana suddenly upright, focused and picking up speed at a rate of knots. Between the 150m-mark and the 50m pole he made up the best part of five lengths on multiple Grade 1 winner Mother Russia. There was no looking around this time, a steely composure instead. Perana drew alongside the formidable mare, put his head down and got her measure. He won going away without once being touched by the stick of his ice-cool rider.
Perana’s first experience under lights was one possible explanation furnished for his shenanigans in the wake of this unexpected racetrack epic. Others argued that he’d lost his concentration when the car park came into his view, halfway down the straight.
The more likely explanation is Mike de Kock’s assessment that he was “troublesome and naughty”, and was probably in need of a surgical procedure normally consistent with the elimination of riotous testosterone. At the business end of the race he wanted company, a serious challenger to lay down the gauntlet; then maneuvered his own monumental battle when nothing materialized.
“This was an astounding performance because he was way out the weights to start with,” added Mike. “I told owners Bernard Kantor, Larry Nestadt and Tony Bott that there was no point in taking him to a Graduation Plate, we had to throw him in the deep end. But even after this success I think we should try to contain our excitement and stay focused. Perana is now a Summer Cup contender and we have a few important weeks ahead of us. I’ve always wanted to win the Cup with a three-year-old, it’s decision time now!”
The lucky owners were away on vacation and JJ van der Linden, speaking on their behalf, commented: “I couldn’t see him winning at the conditions, but what a performance this was. I’d like to congratulate Larry Nestadt, in particular, because he has always believed in the Prince Of War family, it is paying off!”