THERE are a number of easily notable similarities between former star mare Ilha Da Vitoria (2003 – 2006) and her second foal, Ilha Bela (2011 to present). However, close scrutiny reveals a few other parallels that stretch beyond the obvious to bring the younger mare to a hugely significant junction in her own career.
Most racing enthusiasts will agree, without quibbling, that the diminutive grey champion Ilha Da Vitoria passed to Ilha Bela a good proportion of the genes that determined her size, the colour of her coat, her brave spirit and her hard-galloping action.
We’ll also know instinctively that Ilha Bela, the impressive winner of Saturday’s Joburg Spring Fillies and Mares Challenge (Gr3 – WFA) over 1450m on the inside track at Turffontein, races in the silks of Mary Slack, the same black body with red cap sported by the jockeys who partnered the famous Ilha Da Vitoria.
For the sake of interest, let’s take the ‘Ílha’ trivia a few steps further:
If you compare the photos above, you’ll see that Ilha Bela (right), running on Saturday, was fitted with a white noseband and a yellow bridle. ‘Ilha The First’ was equipped with the same when, incidentally, she won the Ipi Tombe Stakes on almost exactly the same date and at the same venue in 2005! (The sponsor Bidvest’s advertising boards appear on both photos in more or less the same positions, though with a measure of change in design).
Something else worth mentioning is that mother and daughter were officially born only a single day apart, in different years of course. Ilha Da Vitoria first saw the light of day on 30 August, 2000. She foaled down with Fort Wood’s daughter Ilha Bela on 31 August, 2008.
During Saturday’s post-race interview for Ilha Bela the erudite and confident Mathew de Kock, sporting a pair of dark fashion-shades, in a few fleeting moments resembled his father conducting the same for Ilha Da Vitoria almost a decade earlier, a difference between teacher and student only evident in the amount of hair on their heads and the girth measurements established by their respective tailors.
There are more bits and pieces to throw in, but can we add any substance to what some readers may now regard as information that borders on the frivolous?
Arguably, yes. We’ll do it for the sake of taking on one of horseracing kind’s (and indeed the human kind’s) most intriguing challenges: the art of accurately predicting the future! Whether eventually proven right or wrong, at least we’ll present some food for thought and make an attempt to answer a question which today is on the lips of many a racing fanatic: Is Ilha Bela good enough to emulate one of Ilha Da Vitoria’s most illustrious feats – can she win the Gr1 Summer Cup, the 2013 renewal of which is scheduled for 30 November?
If one accepts that history tends to repeats itself, or that natural cycles come and go at sometimes perfectly predictable intervals, the next six-and-a-half months can turn Ilha Bela from many a critic’s proverbial goose to the swan that Mike de Kock ventured she’d be, more than two years ago.
Mike brought Ilha Bela along more or less the same racing route as her mother – not an earth-shattering feat considering that rare career-mapping skills have been the norm and not the exception in Mike’s career. Yet, as we will show below, we could be about to witness another example of stable planning pointed at a specific goal, incorporating a series of periodic fitness regimes, build-ups and lay-offs and expertly executed by South Africa’s visionary trainer and his team of assistants.
Has Mike made a mistake? Has he over-rated Ilha Bela? She has, by several expert accounts, always fallen well short of Ilha Da Vitoria for sheer class and ability. Or does she possess the attributes to make it to the top? How hard, or how easy is it, to compare the best horses from different generations?
When she was three years old Mike said that Ilha Bela, like Ilha Da Vitoria, could well be headed for stardom. Not mincing words, he added that, on the evidence of her track work and development, Ilha Bela had a chance of turning out to be even better than the Equus Horse Of The Year of 2006!
Twenty-one runs later, is Mike about to be proven wrong, or will we see the sudden rise of a star in the very fashion of her mother?
On the face of a first comparative look at the careers of Ilha Da Vitoria and Ilha Bela, sentiment, emotion and the average public opinion will dictate with some conviction that Ilha Da Vitoria, as an early five-year-old mare, had achieved a great deal more than her daughter. Further into five she went on to greatness, wiping out all opposition at the highest level, and can therefore be considered in a class all of her own. At four years of age ‘Ilha The First’ was, after all, narrowly beaten in no fewer than four Gr1 races and three Gr 2 contests (by several subsequent award-winning thoroughbreds) when considered unlucky on most every occasion.
On closer inspection, however, the following facts and figures prove that Mike has brought Mary Slack’s current-day grey to the very same watershed her predecessor was faced with, and at near equal ability on paper.
Consider the below:
Ilha Da Vitoria’s career statistics:
At 2 years: 2 wins (Mdn Juv 1400m, Juv 1450m)
At 3 years: 1 win (Listed 1400m)
At 4 years: 3 wins (Gr2 `1400m, Gr2 2000m, Handicap 1400m)
At 5 years: 4 wins (Gr1 1600m, Gr1 2000m, Gr2 1600m,Gr2 2000m)
Career statistics: 26 runs -10 wins – 14 places
Career Stakes: R5,239,990
Ilha Da Vitoria’s Career statistics in the 2nd week of October, 2005:
20 runs – 7 wins – 11 places and stake earnings of approximately R1,150,000
Merit rating on 10 October 2005: 101
*In the following six-and-a-half months Ilha Da Vitoria blossomed, came to the very peak of her abiity. She won her first Gr1 race, the 2005 Summer Cup as a five-year-old, on 26 November 2005, and the Gr1 Horse Chestnut Stakes on 1 April 2006. She went out in great style with a phenomenal win over her formidable counterpart Jamaica on 29 April, 2006, winning the Gr2 Champions Challenge. In this period she quadrupled her career earnings. Her final career rating was 114.
Now, look at Ilha Bela’s career statistics:
At 2 years: 2 wins (Mdn Juv 1450m, Novice 1400m)
At 3 years: 2 wins (Gr2 Oaks, Handicap 1800m)
At 4 years: 2 wins (Handicap 1800m, Pinnacle Stakes 1800m)
At 5 years (still in progress): 1 win (Gr3 1450m)
Career statistics in progress: 21 runs – 7 wins – 5 places
Ilha Bela’s Career statistics in the 2nd week of October, 2013:
21 runs – 7 wins – 5 places and stake earnings of approximately R1,205,450.
Merit rating on 7 October 2013: 104 (comparatively 98 without recent NHA merit rating raise)
As can be seen, in the second year of October of their five-year-old careers, both Ilha Da Vitoria and Ilha Bela were (are) 7-time winners with only two merit rating points setting them apart. At this stage both had earned in the region of R1,2-million. Ilha Da Vitoria had won 2 Gr2 races and a Listed race, Ilha Bela a Group 2 and a Gr3 race. Ilha Bela finds herself at more or less the same level of development and performance.
In the next six-and-a-half months, will Ilha Bela mirror the feats of her dam – will she fully mature, turn into a galloping machine and produce a quick-fire string of high-class, money-spinning runs?
Racing’s Crystal Ball ball and certain theories around genetics say she has a better than average chance!