The result of major races is usually in the balance at the 400m mark, but in the Sun International only Pedometer's winning margin was in question at that point.
Memories of the equine flu that swept through the Transvaal and Cape last December sprang to life on a hot spring Saturday afternoon at Turffontein last month. The occasion was the R350 000 Sun International, the country's joint-richest race, normally run in late April.
The flu epidemic erased the Cape summer season from the racing calendar and Kenilworth determined to salvage the R300 000 JUB Metropolitan Stakes, made a unilateral decision to hold the Cape's premier race on April 18 - only one week before the Sun International.
Kenilworth's selfish action left Turffontein and Sun International in a quandary. Go ahead as planned, set a later date or cancel the 1987 Sun International. Turffontein was reluctant not to run the race in the track's centenary year and a decision was taken to postpone the race to September 12.
The principal drawback of a September date was the likelihood of not attracting top runners from the Cape and Natal. August and September are the best months to rest top runners. Thereafter Highveld racing hots up with the Germiston November Handicap followed by the rich First National over 1600m at Turffontein, the Cape summer season, the main Highveld season and the Natal winter programme which ends in August.
Turffontein also changed the conditions from weight-for-age to a handicap restricted to a 6kg weight range owing to fears that the race might not be competitive if only one or two top runners took part.
The event was robbed of much glitter ta nomination stage when neither champion five-year-old Model Man, based at Clairwood, nor champion four-year-old Bush Telegraph, resting on a farm in the Cape, were entered.
Not one Natal-based runner was among the 18 final acceptors and only Cape-based trainer Ralph Rixon saved the race from the boredom of an all-Highveld field. Rixon sent a small band of raiders to Turffontein after the Natal winter season and ran three in the big race - leading four-year-olds Honey Bear and Heir to Riches and US-bred import Melun, who was coming off a fourth in the Rothmans July Handicap followed by a third in the Game Gold Cup.
The Rixon raiders added life to ante-post betting which would otherwise have been dominated by Pedometer from the yard of champion trainer Jean Heming, who also ran Swift and Bold, Uncle Percy and Fair Value.
Turffontein grabbed headlines but did racing a bad turn by eliminating top four-year-old Desert Legend at final acceptance stage, when six runners had to be axed to reduce the field to the maximum of 18.
The decision stunned racing enthusiasts in the light of the paucity of quality runners in the line-up and owner Tony Factor of Downtown fame considered applying to the Supreme Court for an interdict forcing Turffontein to reinstate Desert Legend.
Desert Legend warranted a berth in the field ahead of at least half a dozen others. One of the leading runners of his generation, he got within a neck of Bush Telegraph in the Administrator's Champion Futurity Stakes as a two-year-old and won three of five races last season - two 1600m races at Turffontein and a 1300m Top division sprint at Gosforth park by nearly 8 lengths.
Turffontein's stated reason for discarding one of the country's most talented horses from the Sun International pack was that the gelding was doubtful to stay the 2000m distance. This excuse was as flimsy as a tissue in light of Welcome Guest's inclusion.
Welcome Guest won the 1000m Computaform Sprint at Gosforth Park back in March and, at final acceptance for the Sun International, had not won beyond 1300m and had finished well back in the Schweppes Challenge over 1600m at Clairwood in his only crack at a middle distance.
Factor will not let Turffontein off lightly again. The affable "Discount King" did not press ahead with legal action a few days before the race on counsel's advice that the Supreme Court might reject an urgent application on grounds that it could not be considered urgent if brought a week after final acceptance. In light of racecards having been printed, it was also considered unlikely that the court would entertain instructing Turffontein to reinstate Desert Legend.
Factor decided to drop the matter but said he would waste no time instituting legal action should turffontein treat one of his horses similarly in future.
Pedometer was the subject of sustained support in the final days before the race and went off 18/10 favourite with Melun at 9/2. Honey Bear and Swift and Bold started at 7/1 with the rest at 10/1 and better.
Heming booked national champion jockey Jeffrey Lloyd for Pedometer but, on the day, any stablegroom could have ridden the four-year-old to victory. Stablemate Swift and Bold raced past Voodoo Charm to take up the running going into the bend a the 1400m and set a pace that had all but Pedometer gasping racing up the hill towards the straight at the 1000m mark.
Pedometer was at Swift and Bold's heels as the field straightened up and the remainder looked like they were on their second circuit of the course. Voodoo Charm and Melun (USA) were disputing third place 3 lengths behind Pedometer and were followed by Lines of Power, Beyond the Pale and Honey Bear. Welcome Guest, who drew late support to start 10/1, was second-last and 15 lengths off the leader with Emperor's Walk a length further back.
The result of major races is usually in the balance at the 400m mark but in the Sun International only Pedometer's winning margin was in question at that point. Quickly pouncing on Swift and Bold in the straight, Pedometer was 6 lengths clear of nearest pursuer Melun (USA) at the 400m pole and strode further ahead to win by 14 lengths.
Stablemate Uncle Percy was no match for Pedometer but this seven-year-old gelding, having only his fourth run for Heming, comprehensively outpointed the rest and finished 6 lengths clear of Rixon's runner Heir to Riches, who cut stablemate Honey Bear out of third place on the line.
The merit of Pedometer's performance under 53 kg was outstanding and a line of form through Uncle Percy suggested that Model Man and Bush Telegraph could not have held a candle to Heming's runner on the day.
Uncle Percy worked out 8 lengths inferior to Model Man on their running together in the Mainstay 1800m at Clairwood in July, when Model Man was pipped by Main Man with Uncle Percy (received 4 kg) 4 lengths behind in fourth place.
In the Sun International Uncle Percy worked out 12 ½ lengths inferior to Pedometer who, if the line of form is valid, is a 4 ½ length better horse than Model Man. The time underlined the brilliance of Pedometer's display. He ran the 2000m in 2 min 2,95 sec - smashing the course record set by Furious in 1978 by 1,26 sec.
Although one of the leading runners of his generation, Pedometer's run was lengths better than previous achievements and Model Man's championship status could be in jeopardy if he clashes with Heming's charge in the R300 000 Centenary Stakes over 2000m at Turffontein on December 12.
Pedometer is undoubtedly lengths better at Turffontein than any other track. This big, long-striding colt is rather one-paced and takes time to gain momentum, a style of running which can only be fully exploited at the testing Turffontein circuit.
The race was a triumph for Heming and breeders Fred and Henry Doms. Heming, emulating trainer Terrance Millard's feat in the previous Sun International, saddled the first two and the Doms brothers had the distinction of breeding two of the first four - Pedometer and Honey Bear.
Pedometer, by British-bred Averof, is the fifth foal of Jamaico (Fr) mare Aico, who did not win and whose four previous foals were of little account. He cost only R20 000 at the 1985 National Yearling Sales and has earned R459 325 through eight victories and six places in 15 career starts.
Heir to Riches and Honey Bear banked R55 000 for the Rixon stable in finishing third and fourth and the Cape trainer was not overly disappointed at the outcome, although clearly dazed that two leading four-year-olds could have received a drubbing from not only their contemporary Pedometer but also a seven-year-old gelding.
Honey Bear had not raced since the SA Guineas in May and was almost certainly short of peak fitness but the only excuse that could be made for Heir to Riches, runner-up when Pedometer won the Natal Derby by 4 ½ lengths in June, was that he had lost the edge to his ability after a tiring Natal winter season.
Honey Bear was immediately returned to the Cape to be prepared for next year's J&B Metropolitan Stakes. Melun (USA), who ran well below form and finished 23 lengths back, and Heir to Riches will stay on at Turffontein until after the Centenary Stakes.
Tote turnover of 6,53 million was marginally up on the previous Sun International meeting while attendance was a respectable 23 003 - 376 more than last year. "We were a bit disappointed with turnover, but the meeting was held in the middle of the month and betting on the Sun International itself was down. This was not surprising as ten of the 17 runners were coupled."
The race could have a new sponsor next year. The sponsorship contract with Sun International ended with this year's race and it is apparently in the balance whether the casino group will renew the agreement.
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