Stage set for racing royalty

April 16, 2021

They used to reckon that racing is the activity of royalty – hence the name “The Sport Of Kings” – and Saturday’s meeting at Turffontein seems to bear that out, with the main event being the Grade 1 HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes.

The race will be run over 1600m and Princess Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa, has always done her bit to promote interest in her country of upbringing and horse racing. Therefore it’s probably fitting that the highest-rated filly in the land, and one of our most popular horses, is in the race.

Yes, Summer Pudding is back to try to add another R750 000 winning cheque to her already sizeable earnings of R2.2-million. Bred by Wilgersbosdrift and Mauritzfontein she is already a valuable future broodmare, but when her career is over she’s going to be worth her weight in gold.

Summer Pudding is still only four-year-old and will definitely prefer more distance than the 1600m she races over on Saturday. The distance, and the fact that some firmly believe there’s a “flat spot” in the second run after a rest, has given hope to a couple of punters who are looking elsewhere for the winner.

They certainly can look, but I doubt that they will find something to beat her. She’s won 10 of her 11 races to date – her only blemish coming in the Cape summer season – and showed she’s back to her best when winning on her return after a rest three weeks ago. Although the mile is admittedly a little short for her, given that she’s by Silvano and out of Cherry On The Cake, she is unbeaten in four attempts over the 1600m and at level weights she looks virtually impossible to oppose.

Having said that, she’s probably at a generous 5/10 in the market and will be a popular Pick 6 banker. The eight-time winner Running Brave is 5kg out at the weights, but is a strong front-runner who should keep her gallop going a long way down the Turffontein straight. She could well be good enough to stay on for second. The lightly-raced Seehaam is hopelessly out at these weight terms, but her jockey Lyle Hewitson rates her and she bolted home by five lengths last time out. She will also have her days going forward, but with the stage endorsed by royalty, it will be fitting if Summer Princess shows herself to be the Queen of the turf on Saturday.

This week the big talking point in racing, off the track that is, was the staging of the annual Bloodstock SA National Yearling Sales at Germiston. It’s invariably the standout sales event on the South African calendar and you usually have to have deep pockets to be able to dig into and secure what is hopefully a future champion. However, sales are the lifeblood of the industry and without them we wouldn’t have racing, so we extend all the best luck to those looking to purchase a champion, like Summer Pudding.

For me though the story of the week was the R5000 fine handed out to trainer Sarel von Willingh Smit, who was found to have contravened Rule 72.1.25 – conducting himself in an improper manner by using foul and abusive language towards jockey Jason Gates at the Vaal last month.

So, I looked up the race in question. Gates rode An Old Sweet Song who ran last, beaten 30 lengths at the Vaal, which led to the trainer verbally abusing him.

However, I then looked at the horse’s form. Before then unplaced in seven starts, including beaten by a distance. Her previous run she had been beaten 14 lengths. Her odds were 50/1 when Gates rode her. She then raced three weeks later, with Randall Simons the jockey, and finished 10th out of 12 and beaten 17 lengths. Makes me wonder, and chuckle, why the trainer seemed so upset with Gates.

The next Cape meeting is on Monday.

Photo of Summer Pudding courtesy Chase Liebenberg

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