NEXT week’s inaugural Cape Premier Yearling Sale received a well-timed promotional boost when South African-bred Zanzamar (Richard Hills) won the UAE Guineas Trial over 1400m on the All-Weather at Meydan on Thursday night.
The powerful three-year-old colt by Fort Wood, a graduate of Nicky Bartlett’s Danika Stud of Sardinia Bay near Port Elizabeth, scored by a length in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai. He was impressive in doing so over a distance considered well short of his best, and after an almost six-month lay-off.
Zanzamar wins under Richard Hills.
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Mike de Kock was not only thrilled that Zanzamar managed to notch his win at an opportune time for the South African breeding industry, but also for saddling a winner with his first Dubai runner for Sheikh Hamdan.
“Zanzamar showed once again that the SA-breds are more than capable of being competitive on foreign soil. It is fitting that he is owned by Sheikh Hamdan who has seen the potential of our horses and their superb value in the world market. He has backed his belief in our industry with big investments, and following the example of his first cousin, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.
“We’ve had a number of winners for Sheikh Hamdan in South Africa and Zanzamar is the best of his first purchases so we brought him to Dubai. He won well tonight and confirmed that he has the mettle to be a UAE Derby candidate. He was sweaty in the paddock and a bit green in the race, but his class came into play. He has improvement to come. We have two more races planned for him before the Derby.”
Seven-year-old River Jetez came close to making it a terrific evening for SA-breds, finishing third in the Cape Verde (Group 2), over 1600m on turf. The former Mike Bass-inmate was unlucky not to have won after encountering traffic problems at a critical stage of the race.
River Jetez, aimed at a passage railside, had to ease off the heels of Thai Haku, who shifted away from the rail and back when jockey Christophe Soumillon was about to drive his mount into the open gap to what looked to be the route to an almost certain win.
River Jetez (yellow silks, Soumillon), unlucky in defeat.
River Jetez was switched sharply out from behind Thai Haku and regained her composure with a late challenge but Frankie Dettori’s uninterrupted run on Aspectoflove made a difference of three-quarters-of-a-length at the wire, in favour of the Godolphin mare over the fast-finishing South African runner.
Mike lodged an objection against second-placed Thai Haku, who had held on narrowly for second, a short-head in front of River Jetez, but the objection was over-ruled.
He commented: “I believe River Jetez would have won if she wasn’t blocked on the rail. A clear gap opened when Thai Haku shifted away from the rail. Her shifting back in cost us the race. I am disappointed for River Jetez’s joint-owners, Mrs and Mrs. Amm, who travelled to Dubai to watch the race because we expected her to win. But they can take heart that she is still the top horse she used to be. She will improve going into her next race, the Ballanchine. She’ll do them proud during the rest of the Carnival.”
Mike said that the result of the Cape Verdi proved that bookmakers were like a protected species. “I think they have a ‘Guardian Angel.’ River Jetez had lots of money running on her tonight and punters must have taken a heavy blow when they should have won. But what can we do, that’s racing.”
Solid Choice (Christophe Soumillon, nearest camera), flashes up late to win.
Solid Choice, disappointing at last year’s Carnival, opened the evening on a high note by winning the Marsala Trophy over 1400m with a storming late run under Soumillon.
Mike noted in his preview that Solid Choice had been working a lot better than last season and he wasn’t surprised by what happened in the race.
“Solid Choice was more relaxed tonight. Christophe rode a great race. He switched Sold Choice off early and shook him up at the right time. I am privileged to have jockeys of the caliber of Christophe and Kevin Shea riding for me, both great team players who get on very well.”
Solid Choice (Soumillon), with Yousuf Al Sayegh.
Soumillon, on Here To Win, was beaten into second by Derbaas in the Falcon Lounge Trophy over 1600m and into third on Star Empire in the Al Sarab trophy over 1900m.
Said Mike: “Both ran very well and will come on a few lengths after this. Here To Win was in a very strong race, she moved up smartly and gave a good account of herself. Star Empire ran on from a wide draw, he is one to watch.”
He added: “In all we had a wonderful night with mostly excellent performances. We’re racing against some of the world’s best horses. We have to compete against outfits like Godolphin, who bring horses worth tens of millions of dollars to race here at the Carnival. We can’t possibly be expected to win all the time.
”So far, however, we’ve held our own and I am pleased to put on record that I have seen a difference in our horses this Dubai season, having shipped in my own feed for the first time. There is no question that they are handling their work and their racing better. My thanks go to Dr Rensia de Wet and Epol for making a noticable difference.”
Veteran racer Hunting Tower produced an encouraging run in the Al Forsan Trophy over 2000m, running on well after being dropped out to last in the early part, many lengths off the call.
“I hope the barstool jockeys don’t have a swipe at Kevin Shea for his tactics. He rode perfectly to instructions and Hunting Tower made good improvement as a result.”
Headline photo: Zanzamar (Richard Hills), approaching the winner’s enclosure, accompanied by Ali Al Muhairi, representing Sheikh Hamdan.
(All photographs by Andrew “See me on Facebook” Watkins)