LINK Man (photo) produced an awe-inspiring turn of foot on his return to the racetrack at Turffontein on Tuesday evening.
The four-year-old grey colt by Toreador stylishly accounted for a small but formidable band of Graded and Listed-winning sprinters in a Conditions Plate over 1160m on the standside circuit.
Slow off and forced prematurely into something resembling a minor hurry to stay within striking distance of the blistering pacemakers, Link Man was soon enough in contention. Settled, he found himself six lengths adrift and last of 10, but looked well composed and in a mood to unleash when they reached the halfway mark.
From his vantage point at centre rear, jockey Anthony Delpech had a variety of options to consider for Link Man’s build-up to what he could sense was going to be a fired-up finish. Delpech briefly flirted with the idea of barging his way through the cluster of steeds belting out matters down the middle, but such a choice would have been fundamentally flawed in its potential to cause a collision of various noble heads and muscled hindquarters.
One alternative was to switch Link Man in and towards the grandstand to make his run more or less parallel to the standside rail, but a wide stretch of plush kikuyu on the opposite side of the track made more appeal. The grey was pulled swiftly to the vast interior, balanced for his best possible performance and let confidently off the bridle with 300m to run. Link Man kicked immediately into stride, his swift changing to top gear conceivably evident even to the eyes of inexperienced onlookers.
Moments before, the classy galloper Shea Shea had pressed hoof to pedal to skip a few lengths clear but Link Man, in full cry, made his old rival and the other triers appear ordinary as he rattled past, strung like a bow and unstoppable on the night.
He won by two lengths from Snowdon, who had the fading Shea Shea a further three lengths behind him.
Greg Blank praised Delpech for a patient ride after Link Man’s mishap at the pens, congratulated Mike de Kock for a good training feat and his fellow owners, the brothers Burg and Larry Nestadt, for their colt’s eye-catching display after a six-month layoff.
Mike commented: “Link Man looked beautiful on parade and on his way down to the start. He was sound and very well tonight. He’s a smart horse and the secret is to keep him sound and happy. We’ll go next for the Merchants Sprint and aim him at the Queen’s Plate after that.”
Borodino (far side), got the better of Janus Man after an exciting duel of their world-class jockeys.
The stable had the dynamite in Weichong Marwing’s arms to thank for a victory earlier on the night by Borodino, a three-year-old covered in a coat similar to Link Man’s grey, but whose gearbox is not equipped with the tiptronic speed shift that completes his stablemate’s state-of-the-art engine.
The race, a Maiden Plate over 2000m, turned into a proper crowd-pleaser at the business end. Marwing took on Piere Strydom on Janus Man in a vintage duel of strength and jockeyship, a pleasingly frequent occurrence in years gone by but a rare and exquisite treat these days due to Weichong’s jetsetting nature, Piere’s own recent ventures to foreign pastures and the consequence of limited opportunities to pit their considerable skills against each other in riveting contests like these.
Janus Man is a strong galloper, like Borodino, and also on the one-paced side, which meant that both riders’ known ability to play cat and mouse by varying the pace was tested to the hilt on their plodding gallopers. In the rousing drive to the line Marwing and Strydom threw their bathroom sinks and gold-plated taps at their mounts in what was always going to be a bob-of-the-nose result. This time, it was Weichong who got a nose-up first when the cameras flashed.
“Borodino is bred to stay, being by Daylami, and he was resolute in winning tonight. He fought hard all the way to the line and his courage secured his victory. He stays well and I think he will win more races,” Mike said of the colt, who is likely to bring more happiness to the hearts of owners Costa and Billy-Anne Livanos and Slim O’Brien.
At Scotsville’s meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the stable won a Maiden Plate over 1200m with Rocco’s Luck, a three-year-old colt by Royal Academy making his first public appearance. This one looks to have some scope too, as he won a good race despite showing inexperience and clumsiness.
“Rocco’s Luck is a big horse and he can only improve from here,” said assistant trainer Nathan Kotzen of the strong brown, owned in partnership by Bernard Kantor and Larry Nestadt.
Rocco’s Luck (Anthony Delpech), ran on strongly to win his 1200m debut.