Feature race double for Gavin Lerena
Gavin Lerena clearly means business in his pursuit of a second South African jockey championship. He added a couple more winners to his haul in claiming the Grade 2 feature double at Turffontein on Saturday – the Colorado King Stakes aboard Brazuca and the Senor Santa Stakes on Champagne Haze.
Both were imperious victories, with Lerena timing the runs to perfection and getting the utmost out of his mounts.
Question marks hung over both runners in the prelims. Could Brazuca stay a true-run 2000m at Turffontein? Was a Grade 2-level 1160m too sharp for Champagne Haze?
Lerena didn’t appear to share the doubts of pundits and punters. He got Brazuca (6-1) to accelerate at just the right moment to claim a 3.10-length victory over the top-class gallopers Deo Juvente (15-10 favourite) and French Navy (18-10).
A little while later, Champagne Haze (8-1) responded to the personable jockey’s urgings to outsprint some speedy customers by two lengths.
Both winners sported the Wernars family colours, for a wide variety of owners, with Brazuca coming from the stable of Johan Janse van Rensburg and Champagne Haze from Gary Alexander’s yard.
Brazuca had tried the course and distance once before, finishing third to Legal Eagle in last year’s Champions’ Challenge but looking exhausted at the line.
The Australian-bred is now a year older and clearly a lot stronger. Yet the worries over his endurance capabilities – sparked by a disappointing showing in the Sun Met – saw him start at a chunky 6-1.
The money came for the Geoff Woodruff-trained Deo Juvente, who was returning from a 70-day break but who had shown a promising return to form with a second place in the London News in January. De Juvente started as 15-10 favourite, just above 18-10 chance French Navy, who trainer Sea Tarry had said was getting back to his best.
From the jump, Tarry’s pacemaker Stonehenge streaked into a big lead and had pulled about a dozen lengths clear as they began the final turn.
The chasing pack was headed by Samurai Blade, ahead of Deo Juvente, Kings Archer, Brazuca and French Navy.
In the straight, Stonehenge stopped like a large rock and Deo Juvente and French Navy breezed past. Lerena steered Brazuca wide of these two and pressed the button.
Brazuca immediately hung inwards and crossed his adversaries, but pulled effortlessly away from them to score easily. Deo Juvente did look hampered but at no stage had the measure of the winner.
French Navy stayed on to claim third, a whisker in front of Samurai Blade.
The Senor Santa was turned into very open race with the scratchings of the two most fancied horses, Trip To Heaven and Graduation Day.
Tarry’s Bull Valley was backed into clear favouritism at 12-10, with the next best on offer Dollar Dazzler at 9-2.
Splendid Garden was away to a flyer, with Queen Laurie, Wrecking Ball, Dollar Dazzler, Doing It For Dan and Bull Valley all vying to head the affair.
Bull Valley got the edge for a few seconds inside the final 300m, but Champagne Haze, who had never been more than five lengths back, came thundering through to snatch the honours.
Filly Wrecking Ball ran on well to get second, while Splendid Garden pipped Bull Valley for third.
Pic from the Shergar Cup meeting at Ascot