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  • Writer's pictureCrawford Racing


Africa’s Richest Race-day featuring the Sun Met, three other Grade 1 contests and big money incentive races showcased premium quality thoroughbreds competing under ideal conditions at Kenilworth on Saturday. High powered sponsors Sun, Investec, CTS, Phumelela, Klawervlei and Kuda contributed to the massive stakes pot of close to R22 million, which is quite without precedent in South Africa.

There is so much to gain by doing well on these popular “marquee” days which are strongly promoted and attended by a wider fan base. Conversely if things don’t turn out as hoped for, connections feel the losses more acutely than usual. That all just adds to the adrenalin and pressure.

Brett Crawford has always been especially motivated to maximise the careers of horses in his barn and take those that are capable to the very top. So, to shine on the big stage and win Grade 1 races with Whisky Baron in the Sun Met and Edict of Nantes in the Investec Cape Derby were undoubtedly the highlights of a very special month for the stable.

Whisky Baron was already smart as a three year- old, twice getting close to highly rated Marinaresco in the Winter Series, though the decision to geld him in June raised the son of Manhattan Rain up to the next level. Since being cut he has been perfect, winning five on the bounce. Victories in a Graduation, two Allowance races, the Peninsula and now the Sun Met has seen his merit rating bulge from 96 to 120. Whisky Baron’s rapid progress was in exact sync with each move up the class ladder, as judiciously plotted by Brett.

Cleverly handled by regular pilot Greg Cheyne, Whisky Baron raced midfield in the big one with stable stalwart Captain America galloping strongly upfront. Captain America came under pressure when challenged either side by Gold Standard and Equus Champ, Legal Eagle with Whisky Baron moving fluently on the outer. Craig and Ross Kieswetter’s hero’s finishing surge was perfectly timed, a final rally proving stronger than rivals could muster when it counted, taking him 1.5 lengths clear at the wire to trigger emotional celebrations.

This is a third win for Crawford in one of South Africa’s iconic races – Angus and Futura being previous winners. Brett is deeply satisfied at producing the goods for the Kieswetter clan, a tightly knit family with boundless passion for this great game. With a valiant, Captain America keeping on for third and yet another Grade 1 placing, it completed a memorable 2017 Met for the stable.

Earlier, Edict Of Nantes won the Cape Derby under a smart ride from Frankie Dettori. Being unfazed by pressure and instinctively doing the right thing have been key to building the bubby Italian’s global reputation. “They went so slow, I thought I should pinch it early, then let them panic.“ explained the cunning tactician. Informed that, whilst talented, Edict Of Nantes can be a lazy character, Dettori did the proper thing by riding with vigour right to the line to extend his advantage. Congratulation to owners Mayfair Speculator’s and breeders Klawervlei Stud on winning this prestigious Grade 1 contest.

Crawford Racing has enjoyed multiple wins on a single day a few times recently, though at lower profile meetings. So, notching up four victories, including two Grade 1’s on Africa’s Richest Race-day is most heartening. Bold Respect is a promising juvenile and he showed great determination to go all the way in the Kuda Sprint, fighting back in a rousing duel with Wonderwall to get it on the nod. Lance and Delma Sherrell were on course to lead in the son of Bold Silvano, from Ashley Parker’s Ascot Stud and out of a dam bred by Lance’s father.

The final winner on the 28th was Winter Prince, a robust, pace- pressing galloper. He too has benefitted from gelding, as he could pull uncontrollably in races before the operation. Stable jock Corne Orffer has done great on Winter Prince, winning five of ten mounts on John and Beth Brandtner’s runner. In Saturday’s merit rated 95 handicap he dictated the pace before letting Winter Prince drift naturally toward the rail, then outduelling Forty Cents to sneak a tight verdict.

After all the weekend’s excitement, recalling the months’ bald stats may seem rather mundane. For the record, though, Crawford Racing had 12 winners from 69 runners at a strike rate of 17%. That includes those coveted Grade 1’s, plus a Grade 2 when Whisky Baron won the Peninsula Handicap in preparation for his tilt at Met glory.

As of end January, Crawford is now up to second position on the Official National Trainer’s Log with 64 winners, and third in the rankings by total stakes. The Summer season has not yet drawn to a close, but Brett is already plotting ahead to ensure that his string keeps firing in Cape Town, horses that require time off get the rest they deserve, and putting together a raiding party that can campaign with distinction in KZN during the Winter.

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