FUTURA produced a truly astonishing turn of foot to become only the fourth horse in the last 20 years to complete the Queen’s Plate/J & B Met double at Kenilworth last Saturday.
True, the four-year-old’s task in South Africa’s biggest conditions race was greatly simplified by the withdrawal of Legislate and a below-par display from 9/5 favourite Louis The King but it was impressive stuff all the same.
He simply switched into another gear when Bernard Fayd’Herbe pressed the button approaching the furlong marker, accelerated through a narrow gap and had the race won in a manner of strides.
“He is an amazing horse and he really showed his class,” said trainer Brett Crawford after winning his second Met. “But I would have been disappointed had he not won like that because he had improved so much since winning the Queen’s Plate.
“I am not sure what we are going to do now. The owners and I will have to sit down and discuss it but the way the conditions of the Durban July have been changed that race is never easy.” The Dynasty colt was bought for R500,000 (less than €30,000) as a yearling for local owner Jack Mitchell by agent John Freeman who kept “a very small leg.”
Peter Doyle, who watched fascinated as the colt waltzed home, recalled: “I was acting for Ian Longmore and was the underbidder. Afterwards Ian bought a share in the horse from Jack.”
Louis The King, in marked contrast to the seemingly exaggerated waiting tactics employed on him by the now Australia-based Robbie Fradd when winning the Triple Crown, sat handy but went backwards in the final furlong.
“I’m certainly not blaming Piere Strydom but ‘Louis’ needs to be sat further back and off a hot pace,” said trainer Geoff Woodruff. “No disrespect to Futura, who is a very good horse, but if you were to run the race again at a better gallop you might get a different story.”
The time of 2m 5.38sec was the slowest for this 10-furlong race in the last 10 years and a far-from-happy Woodruff is now taking his star and fourth-placed Tellina back to Johannesburg for the big races there. “I am very disappointed at the pace we’ve seen in Cape Town this season,” he said. “It has been very ordinary to say the least.”
Six-times champion Strydom had a desperate day. He rode the favourite in all three Group 1 races and was beaten on them all. The biggest shock came in the Investec Cape Derby when 1/3 hotpot Act Of War was in trouble two furlongs out and in the end it was all he could do to hold on to second as Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Australian-bred Ertijaal made all to win by almost five lengths.
“Act Of War was a very tired horse in the racecourse stables and blowing hard,” reported Joey Ramsden. “This wasn’t his run – he emptied too quickly for that – and he finished in a heap with horses rated far below him.”
The winner, now unbeaten in four starts, is trained by Mike de Kock and is not to be confused with the Irish-bred horse of the same name who was trained to win three times for Sheikh Hamdan by William Haggas and is now operating on the UAE circuit.
Racing manager Angus Gold said of the South African-based Ertijaal: “He had colic as a young horse. We had to open him up and it was touch and go whether he would survive. To win a Derby 18 months later is quite something.”
Ramsden and Strydom were also out of luck in the Klawervlei Majorca when Cold As Ice’s suspect stamina gave out in the closing stages. She hung right halfway across the course as she tired and Grant van Niekerk on the Mike Bass-trained Inara got up to win by a head.
The winner is qualified for the Breeders’ Cup by virtue of her Paddock Stakes win four weeks ago and it is under consideration. However there are the usual well-nigh insuperable quarantine problems to overcome. The three-year-old is out of the Shirley Heights mare Mountains Of Mist who was bred in Ireland by the Niarchos family.
Sonia Rogers is the breeder, jointly with Kirsten Rausing, of Kingston Mines who led virtually throughout the mile and three-quarters of the Urban Honey Stayers to credit the de Kock-trained Archipenko gelding with a Group 2 success.
Captain America delighted David and Diane Nagle and their co-owners by defying the steadier of 10st 2lb in a mile handicap, making most of the running and taking a strong hold for most of the way.
This is the horse who won a valuable sales race last season before going close in the Cape Guineas and Derby. He might well have won both had he not pulled so hard. Gelding has only partially tamed him but Crawford, who certainly had a day to remember, is now going to send him to Johannesburg for the Group 1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes.
Justin Snaith has beaten his own record for the fastest 100 in a season, albeit only by a week this time. The champion trainer is planning further expansion with a satellite yard in Johannesburg in May.
Harry’s Son, second to Act Of War in the Cape Guineas, will run in both the SA Guineas and SA Classic at Turffontein. Durban trainer Paul Lafferty said: “There is too much schlep involved in getting a horse to Cape Town. He had to stand on the tarmac for three hours last time.”