VERCINGETORIX means “high commander” or “leader of the warriors”, and while this Gaulish rebel chieftain failed to overthrow Julius Caesar in 54 BC, his equine namesake took on and defeated the king of South Africa’s three-year-olds in Saturday’s Gr2 KRA Guineas at Greyville.
In a thrilling finish, Sheik Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s fast-improving colt by Silvano fought a neck-and-neck duel with the accomplished Capetown Noir, lowering his rival’s colours by a short head only, yet convincingly all the same. (see headline photo).
Vercingetorix, who gained valuable experience from his first two runs, showed some signs of immaturity still, but he clearly likes to win and made this a spectacular feat by stepping up from the Graduation ranks to beat the dual Grade 1 winner.
Racing smoothly near the rail and well in touch approaching the 300m-mark, Capetown Noir made what looked to be his winning move under Karl Neisius. A length or two out of his ground, to the outside, Vercingetorix appeared to relish his chance to run at the talented favourite. He gathered his resources on queue for jockey Anthony Delpech and threw himself into the race with a turn of foot that sent shivers down many a spine.
On equal terms with the winning post in near sight, the pair drew fiercely into battle. Capetown Noir geared down with the clear intention of putting the young pretender in his place, but Vercingetorix had the whiff of victory in his nostrils. He held Capetown Noir bravely at bay and took the laurels, thoroughly deserved considering his somewhat brazen sneaking up on the established leader of the pack.
While Capetown Noir will undoubtedly come on a couple of lengths for trainer Dean Kannemeyer, who fine-tunes his classic horses with earmarked stepping stones, the biggest measure of improvement arguably lies with Vercingetorix and an impressed Mike de Kock commented: “He’s a scopy horse and has lots to come. He was injured as a young horse and we couldn’t race him at two, but he’s on his way now and this was his most sensible run so far, he wasn’t as green as we saw in his first two starts.”
Mike confirmed that Vercingetorix is one of the stable’s big Vodacom Durban July hopefuls, which holds the promise of a repeat showdown en route with Capetown Noir, depending on Kannemeyer’s game plan going into South Africa’s greatest race. “We’ll go into the July via the Daily News. I believe Vercingetorix will stay the trip,” Mike told.
Pedigree students will point out that the tremendous and dominating speed in Vercingetorix’s female line could be a limiting factor as he ventures beyond a mile, but from what he’s exposed of himself so far he certainly looks like a rangy, progressive type who has inherited enough stamina from his formidable sire to rise to his next challenges. (See Merit of Guineas win, posted under News Briefs).
Mike congratulated Sheik Mohammed’s Al Adyaaat Racing and was quick to mention that Vercingetorix is the first top horse to emerge from the Thoroughbred Industry Transformation Programme’s Grooms Co-Op, which enabled a group of seven deserving grooms from the Riverside Co-Op to buy this colt as a weanling from Klawervlei Stud. Vercingetarix fetched a whopping R1,4 million at the 2011 Emperors National Yearling Sale, netting his empowered, former owners a profit that has changed their lives since. (See Mike’s updated blog for more on this issue).
Jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe returns to the winner’s box on Festival Of Fire.
Best wishes were also forthcoming for Chris Saunders and Lady O’Reilly, who bred KRA Fillies Guineas winner Festival Of Fire by Kahal from. Raised by Filly Bowles at Saunders’ Invermooi Stud, Festival Of Fire easily disposed of her opposition and stamped herself as a serious candidate for other fillies’ features during the KZN Champions Season.
With six wins from only 10 starts, Festival Of Fire took her career earnings to just below R800,000 and Mike said: “We have a few options with her as she is classy and versatile. The SA Fillies Sprint at Scottsville is a possibility.”
Stablemate Izora, who holds a Woolavington Stakes and Durban July entry, was caught flatfooted over the mile in this class and beaten three lengths. “She’s needs further and is a nice filly too,” said Mike.