Gosforth Park's second biggest meeting of the year - the Southern Sun Classic – has pride of place on the East Rand courses calendar and was held on November 7 when the R200 000 Germiston November Handicap over 1600m had top billing supported by a R30 000 sprint feature.
The November Handicap was dogged by controversy from final acceptance. A row flared between trainers "Spike" Lerena and Nick van Tonder when jockey Robbie Sham was declared to ride Jungle Rock and Desert Legend.
Understandably in light of the paucity of top riders on the Highveld, Sham has been much in demand since he returned from a successful stint in Mauritius, where he is likely to win the island's jockeys' championship in spite of missing the last few meetings of the season. The stipendiary stewards were called in to resolve the issue and ruled that Sham should ride Desert Legend, resulting in Stephen Jupp getting the mount on Lerena's temperamental grey Jungle Rock.
Much-vaunted Main Man was priced up 7/10 favourite at final acceptance but blew to 16/10 on the Monday before the race as rumours abounded that he would be scratched following what many pundits rated an unsatisfactory gallop after the last race two days earlier.
Unfortunately for punters the rumours were unfounded and Main Man dominated betting at 11/10 on the day with bookmakers offering 6/1 and better about the other 15 runners.
With hindsight, the colt's odds were unrealistically short. He was set a fairly stiff task by the handicapper and had not raced since downing champions Model Man and Bush Telegraph on favourable handicap terms in the Mainstay 1800 at Clairwood in July.
In the interim there had been persistent rumours that the colt had leg problems - vehemently denied by Heming - and he had realised a bid of R1 million at a sale of horses in training at the TBA sales arena adjoining the Gosforth Park racecourse.
The R1-million sale might have been little more than a publicity move. Owner Jaap van de Vendel and Heming apparently retained their 55% and 10% shareholdings respectively and original buyer Zwi Heroldt's share was bought by Joe Stravino.
Main Man's supporters must have been happy with proceedings halfway through the turn in the November Handicap.
Sent to the front strides after the off by national champion jockey Jeff Lloyd, Main Man was bowling along at a useful tempo 1 ½ lengths in front of Sea Warrior and stable mate Young Lady. Another Treat, Yardmaster and Jungle Rock were disputing fourth place with Battle Order last and about 17 lengths behind the leader.
Main Man was still in command 300m from home but cracked 100m further on when challenged by Yardmaster, Cup Holder and Another Treat, and faded to finish eighth.
Cup Holder (8/1) and Yardmaster (14/1) soon shook off Another Treat and duelled stride for stride until Cup Holder edged ahead late to score by 1/2 length. Another Treat finished 6 lengths further back in third place.
After a few months on a spelling farm, Cup Holder was sent to trainer Roy Howe in Johannesburg. Owner Andreas Schon picked a winner in Howe, who has had significant success with ex-Natal horses in recent years. In just four runs for Howe, Cup Holder has notched three wins and a second and shot earnings from R34 590 to R182 840.
Heming was stunned by Main Man's defeat - "we'll have to wait and see" - and Lloyd could shed little light on the colt's downfall. "I don't think he needed the run," said Lloyd. "He just didn't feel the same horse who beat Model Man in the Mainstay. Perhaps he needs runs after a layoff to reach peak fitness."
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