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Sunday, 30 July 2017 00:00

Sail South sinks Captain, but Crawford still the champ

sail south

Trainer Brett Crawford crowned a fabulous 2016-17 racing season with an Exacta victory in the Grade 1 Champions Cup at Greyville on Saturday.

It wasn’t quite the result most people were expecting, with Crawford’s most-fancied runner, Captain America, failing to hold off the challenge of 17-1 stablemate Sail South.

Sail South, who had never won beyond 1600m – or even tried the 1800m of this contest – galloped on resolutely to run down his front-running companion and grab the lion’s share of the R1-million stake.

It was one of the strongest Champions Cup fields for years, with superstar filly Bela-Bela topping the boards at 26-10. Defending champion and 2017 Vodacom Durban July winner Marinaresco started at 37-10 and Captain America at 4-1.

By comparison, Sail South was somewhat under the radar, although there was some talk about the six-year-old among the punting cognoscenti. Crawford himself had talked up the chances of his “No 2”, suggesting he was very fit and might be ready to push his way into the spotlight.

Jockey Richard Fourie certainly had faith in the son of Sail From Seattle. After the victory, he said he’d ridden the horse in gallops and immediately thought he was Grade 1-winning material.

A fast-finishing third place in the L’Ormarins Queen’sPlate should have alerted more punters to his capability, and two close-up finishes in KwaZulu-Natal features teed him up nicely for this prestigious race.

As expected, Captain America went straight out to dictate the pace, and Sail South went after him – perhaps a little too soon for the connections liking. But Fourie managed to get his mount to settle and he then bided his time.

Tracking Sail South was Ten Gun Salute, Black Arthur, Bela-Bela, Matador Man and Table Bay. Marinaresco, jumping from the widest gate of 12, was always near the tail, up to 10 lengths off the pace.

Marinaresco’s supporters wouldn’t have been worried at that stage as he’d run on from well off the speed to capture the July. But their anxiety would have ramped up as he failed to show that same turn of foot as the entered the straight.

The July exertions appeared to have taken their toll as Marinaresco finished second from last, some nine lengths back.

Meanwhile Captain America was showing his usual heart in galloping relentlessly for the line. But Sail South hoisted the spinnaker and swooped, flashing past the game pacemaker and going on to win by 1.25 lengths.

Matador Man (15-1), who had looked a trifle outclassed here, ran on brilliantly from a slow start to scoot through and snatch third place, just ahead of Bela-Bela, the popular grey filly having her final racecourse outing.

Sail South has now won nine times from 37 starts. His two best previous triumphs were in a Listed event and a Pinnacle Stakes. There aren’t many such late developers in the game.

Nightingale, most punters’ banker bet in the giant Pick 6 at Greyville, just failed to catch Fort Ember in the Prosport International Gold Bracelet (Grade 2) in the main supporting feature race.

Fort Ember made it a day to remember for raiding Highveld trainer Paul Peter, who had earlier saddled Maximizer to victory in the Darley Arabian (Listed).


By Mike Moon

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