They have been buddies for more than four decades but, to put it in boxing terms, trainers Paul Matchett and Stuart Pettigrew will be in different corners at Turffontein on Saturday.
The boxing theme is relevant because two of the eight celebrities linked to the Peermont Emperors Palace Charity Mile are fighters Kevin Lerena and Brian Mitchell.
However, it is the Emperors Palace Ready-To-Run Cup — with its excellent stake of R900,000 — that is the race on the minds of the two Randjesfontein trainers.
They first met in 1978 in the then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, when a young Matchett was a stalls handler and UK-born Pettigrew a jockey. They remained close after moving to SA.
Pettigrew saddles his unbeaten filly Anything Goes in Saturday’s race and is confident the daughter of Var can make it six from six. “We’ve met Matchett’s filly three times and beaten her three times, if she beats us, so be it. It’s part of the game.
“I will give her a final workout on Thursday and she’ll be as ready as I can get her,” added the guy whose CV includes a Summer Cup with Tyson, the SA Classic with Spiced Gold and the Tony Ruffel and Secretariat Stakes with Surcharge.
After War Of Athena’s narrow defeat by Anything Goes in the grade 1 Thekwini Stakes, Paul Matchett attributed the loss to the bad draw of his daughter of Act Of War. “A wide draw costs anyone over a mile at Greyville a few lengths. Anything Goes was drawn four, mine was 11. I think with a better draw we would have won the race.”
Pettigrew countered this by saying: “My filly quickens fast 300m out and gets a few lengths away from them. If War of Athena was drawn right next to us, mine would have found extra to beat her.”
Not surprisingly, there has been overseas interest in Anything Goes with Pettigrew confirming a serious inquiry from Australia. “But [owner] Ian van Schalkwyk says he’s not interested in selling, he’s just thrilled to have a top horse and he fully deserves one.”
Anything Goes was a R275,000 buy as a yearling from Varfsontein Stud who are also the breeders of Mike de Kock’s exciting three-year-old Malmoos.
Unfortunately, Pettigrew revealed that Dance Domain, the dam of Anything Goes, is dead but her third produce, a colt by Gimmethegreenlight, was bought for R420,000 by Reynolds Chung at the National Yearling Sales at the end of July.
War Of Athena, a R30,000 buy from Summerhill Stud, provides further proof there are bargains in the bloodstock world and Matchett has saddled the daughter of Dynasty’s son, Act Of War, to three wins from eight starts.
Will that become four on Saturday? Matchett’s biggest worry must be the welfare or otherwise of jockey S’manga Khumalo who was injured at the Vaal last Thursday and missed last Saturday’s meeting at Turffontein. The 34-year-old is booked for eight rides at the Vaal on Thursday.
While jockey Diego de Gouveia has not made a wrong move in any of Anything Goes’ five starts, a plus for War Of Athena is that Khumalo is riding as well as any time in his career. Statistics to October 21 put him in third place in the national log with 34 winners from 170 mounts.
If Khumalo is sidelined, Matchett might turn to Muzi Yeni who partnered another talented Summerhill-bred female, Running Brave, to victory in the grade 2 Gold Bracelet at Greyville at the end of August.
Bookmakers make the Cup a two-horse race and that seems the right call as Princess Calla (beaten three lengths by Anything Goes in the Thekwini) franked the form when winning last Saturday’s grade 2 Fillies Championship at Kenilworth.
However, Anyone Goes can surely not go any shorter than her current price of 13-20 with War Of Athena quoted at 2-1. However, if punters fancy the latter, the exacta may be the answer. This bet often pays well if the second favourite beats the favourite.