TEAM Valor’s Barry Irwin has responded to jockey Anthony Delpech’s challenge in which he dared the Ebony Flyer camp to travel to Johannesburg to take on Igugu, reports DAVID THISELTON of Gold Circle.
Team Valor, an international racehorse syndication operation that owns Ebony Flyer in partnership with Gaynor Rupert of Drakenstein Stud and Anant and Vanashree Singh. Igugu was defeated by 1,25 lengths by Ebony Flyer in the Grade 1 Cape Fillies Guineas in December.
Ebony Flyer, beating Igugu in the Cape Fillies Guineas. (Gold Circle).
However, Delpech said after her impressive four length win in the Grade 2 Gauteng Guineas at Turffontein on Saturday, “She felt like a different horse to her run in Cape Town. She had so much early speed I was able to place her easily. “In Cape Town it was a left hand turn and she just seemed lost, so I was caught three wide. We’ve been down to Cape Town to take on Ebony Flyer. It would be nice if she could return the favour and take us on here so we can settle the score.”
Irwin replied in length, saying: “Igugu obviously is a very, very good filly. Top drawer. When connections like Mike de Kock and Anthony Delpech, who are not used to getting beat with a horse of Igugu’s calibre, have a horse like her, they find it very difficult to accept defeat. They are competitors, so this is natural. But just as the lightly-raced Igugu did not enjoy perhaps the best of experiences or trips in the Cape Fillies Guineas, neither did the less lightly raced Ebony Flyer, on whom Bernard Fayd’herbe was still learning how best to ride her.
“Ebony Flyer is a truly brilliant filly over 1 400m to 1 600m. These are the distances over which she is bred to be at her best. My job as her racing manager is to maximize her strengths and place her when and where she can prove her true worth. We have not been ducking competition. We ran her in the Queen’s Plate against the top older runners in South Africa. That race was over 1 600m, a distance at which we think is good for her.
“Seasoned veterans in racing thought we were whacko when we decided to skip the Paddock Stakes, a Grade 1 in which our filly would have been a short-priced favourite, to run in the Queen’s Plate. But we have always been enterprising when presented the opportunity with a true Champion. I understand that the De Kock/Delpech team would like to see Ebony Flyer come to Gauteng to race against Igugu over more ground than a mile.
“But I don’t think that a distance farther than a mile would be in our filly’s best interests. Most importantly, however, is our goal for Ebony Flyer. Originally, we had planned to export Ebony Flyer following her victory in the Guineas. Then we altered the schedule to try the Queen’s Plate. We made another change when she ran such a good race in the Queen’s Plate and the sponsors announced their plans to make the race a truly international event next year.
“Naturally, being as interested in international competition as Team Valor International is and given that Queen’s Plate sponsor Gaynor Rupert owns a third of Ebony Flyer, I decided it made sense to keep the filly in South Africa and point for that race next January. Even though January seems a long way off, the preparations for that race must be considered a long ways in advance. Justin Snaith, who by the way thinks Ebony Flyer can run 2 000m, wanted to give her a full season in Durban.
“However, my take on Ebony Flyer is that she runs best when fresh. So we will have a light campaign in the fall, concentrating on the Garden Province, freshen her again and get her ready for the Queen’s Plate. And by not bringing Ebony Flyer to Gauteng, we are not ducking a rubber match with Igugu. Very clever of Anthony to bring up that Igugu had been trucked all the way from Joburg to Cape Town and that it would be nice if the Ebony Flyer camp returned the favour.
“He knows that our ownership is nothing if not sporting and game, so he is appealing to that aspect of our nature. However, I know my job, I know my filly and I have my goal. The ball, as they say, is in the court of Igugu, not Ebony Flyer, to seek a rematch, because we won and she lost.”