IN a 1-2 finish for South Africa, dual Horse Of The Year Variety Club , trained by Joey Ramsden, produced his brilliant best to see off Mike de Kock’s Soft Falling Rain in the $1-million Godolphin Mile, the first race for thoroughbreds staged at the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan on Saturday, reports ROBERT GARNER.
Both the SA-breds looked a picture in the ring and jockey Anton Marcus gave Variety Club a peach of a ride from No 15 draw. They shot out the gate and quickly went to the lead with Marcus able to work the strapping chestnut across to the inside with a minimum of bother.
Soft Falling Rain, much better drawn in No 5 stall in the gate, settled at Variety Club’s quarters in second place with Glory Awaits in third on his inside and local hope Shuruq several lengths back.
Anton Marcus salutes as Variety Club wins the Godolphin Mile. Soft Falling Rain (second), is obscured between the winner and the third-placed runner Flotilla (blue, white stars). Photos by Andrew Watkins.
Jockey Paul Hanagan sent Soft Falling Rain in pursuit as the runners cornered into the short straight and pressed hard all the way to the line. But he was never quite doing enough and Marcus kept Variety Club going to score by a length with Flotilla finishing fast and just failing to pip Soft Falling Rain for second place.
De Kock, who oversaw most of Variety Club’s preparation for the big race over the last three months, took his charge’s defeat in good heart and said he was proud for South Africa. “It’s not important – it’s a great 1-2 for us at one of the world’s greatest race meetings. I am delighted with Soft Falling Rain’s run, we’ll be planning a European campaign for him.”
Marcus and the rest of the Variety Club team, comprising trainer Joe Ramsden, racing manager Derek Brugman and breeder Anton Shepherd of Beaumont Stud, at whose Beaumont Stud Variety Club was bred, were over the moon – Markus Jooste, who owns the horse in partnership with his wife Ingrid, was in Germany to host a function for an orchestra that Steinhoff International sponsors.
The former SA Champion Jockey is now two from two on Dubai World Cup night having won the Dubai Duty Free on Jay Peg on his only previous ride here, commented: “Variety Club overcame the draw pretty economically and effortlessly. This was Markus’ first real international exposure and it was a big team effort. Variety Club did it pretty effortlessly. Thanks to Mike and his team for their hard work with him.”
Ramsden’s introduction to Dubai racing has been highly successful and enjoyable and he said: “To come and compete let alone win a race is fantastic. This is wonderful for South Africa and Anton gave him a great ride. He got a soft lead and was up there all of the way. This is giving me so much pleasure and it may take a while to sink in. I’m surprised Variety Club didn’t have more pressure in the race.”
Shepherd exclaimed “I can’t describe it – just fantastic,” while Brugman also paid tribute to Marcus: “Anton is so good at overcoming bad draws.”
Hanagan said about Soft Falling Rain: “He ran very well and there are no excuses to be second to a very good horse in Variety Club. The race went exactly as I would have liked it to. He was a good bit better after his prep run last time and may have been even better again with another run behind him.”
Variety Club is a five-year-old entire by Avontuur Stud’s stallion VAR from La Massine, by Secret Prospector. He’s won 16 of 22 starts and is believed to be on his way to Hong Kong next.