Winchester Mansion made to fight for maiden Durban July title
Durban – In a race of firsts, Kabelo Matsunyane scored the biggest win of his career as Winchester Mansion got the better of hometown favourite See It Again in a tight finish to Saturday’s Gr1 Hollywoodbets Durban July at Hollywoodbets Greyville.
The 30 000 spectators were treated to a thrilling spectacle as two horses and two jockeys gave it their all.
The two joined in combat 300m out as they pulled clear of the opposition, and it was a duel to the line. Piere Strydom, bidding for his fifth win in the race before his expected retirement, had to switch See It Again off the heels of a tiring Without Question but looked to just hold the upper hand on his challenger as Michael Roberts’s runner See It Again stuck resolutely to his guns. But Winchester Mansion gained inch-by-inch and it was a nod of the heads at the line with Winchester Mansion prevailing by a head.
It was Matsunyane’s first Gr1 victory of his career, it was also a first for trainer Brett Crawford and his son James and owner and breeder Gaynor Rupert of Drakenstein stud who have had a fabulous feature race season.
It was something of a fairytale win for Winchester Mansion who injured his neck in a paddock accident as a youngster. Named after an iconic old hotel in Sea Point in Cape Town, his neck injury delayed the start to his racing career, but he showed his potential by winning the Gr3 Winter Derby at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth before losing his way a little.
A decision was taken to geld him, and the transformation was instant as he was an unlucky second in the WSB Greyville 1900 before cementing his place in the July with a smashing victory in the Gr3 Cup Trial.
Crawford was almost speechless but was full of praise for his jockey.
“When you’ve got a guy like Strydom on your inside you don’t expect the other jock to get past him so full credit to that guy back there he’s had a phenomenal season, he rode a great race and he’s set himself a great future ahead.”
For Roberts it was heartbreak, so near but so far. Roberts and Strydom’s relationship goes back to their riding days where both were fierce competitors. Strydom gave See It Again the perfect ride but was just not able to give his older rival 3.5kg.
Something of a surprise package was the filly Bless My Stars who ran on gamely for third while the old man of the race and two-time winner Do It Again ran his usual courageous race to finish fourth and placed in all six July’s that he contested.
In the Gr1 Ridgemont Garden Province stakes, the expected duel between Princess Cala and Desert Miracle didn’t quite materialize although they did finish one-two.
The race was run at a pedestrian pace, which played into the hands of Princess Calla who has few peers when it comes to sprinting. Visiting France champion jockey Christophe Soumillon had Princess Calla in his sights for all of the race but when it came to the business end, Richard Fourie had skipped on the favourite, and she won rather comfortably.
Earlier in the day, Sandringham Summit carved his way through traffic from the back of the field to score a well deserved win in the Gr2 Golden Horseshoe for Turffontein-based trainer David Nieuwenhuizen and jockey Calvin Habib.
“Nothing went his way, he turned his head as the gates opened and then the field came back at me and I found myself last,” said Habib, but added, “he’s a classy horse.”
With seemingly nowhere to go as favourite Gimmeanotherchance set sail for home, his chances of winning looked forlorn. However, Habib eased his mount through a gap and his acceleration was almost instant as he started to reel in the opposition. With 200m to run Gimmeanotherchance was flat to the boards as Habib had to make a further switch, but such was his momentum, he sailed past the favourite to win full of running.
Mrs Geriatrix turned in one of the performances of the day as she bolted clear of a high-class field in the Gr2 Zulu Kingdom Explorer. Little bigger than a pony, she has a huge stride, and once Richard Fourie asked the question at the top of the straight, she was not for the catching as Soumillon chased in vain on Rascova with Egyptian Mau in third.
Sean Tarry’s filly is now unbeaten in five starts but the trainer was in two minds as to whether she would take her place in the Gr1 Thekwini Stakes on Gold Cup day.
“There is no doubt that she will see out a mile, but she’s had a hard season and it may be a race too far. As you can see, she was a little overwhelmed,” he said pointing out that Fourie had dismounted at the pull-up and the filly was reluctant to be led into the winner’s enclosure.
The lightly weighted Crimson King made short work of the opposition in Gr3 SplashOut 2200. Often referred to as the July consolation race Kabelo Matsunyane made a beeline for the outside rail and quickly went clear of the pack with Soumillon getting Aragosta up for second with Lord William chasing up the inside rail for third.
It was the first of a quick double for Tarry with Mrs Geriatrix following up.
If Crimson King was an easy winner, the Sean Tarry-trained Future Pearl won with even more authority as he out-sprinted the field in the Gr3 Dstv Gold Vase over 3000m.
The race was run at a muddling pace that only really quickened up the hill at the 600m mark. A wall of runners hit the home straight but Future Pearl and Fight Song shot out of the pack crossing the subway.
Fight Song hung on grimly but Future Pearl finally got the better of him and sped off to a comfortable victory.