To say things did not go according to plan for jockey Callan Murray at last weekend’s Summer Cup meeting is an understatement. Instead of bringing home a couple of feature race winners, the 23-year-old spent much of the afternoon being interviewed by the stipendiary stewards.
Murray, who gets most of the plum rides for Mike de Kock and has played his part for the stable this term, must have travelled to Turffontein thinking he had one certain winner in Mount Pleasant (Dingaans) and chances on Charles (Summer Cup) and Queen Supreme (Ipi Tombe Stakes).
Punters watching the Dingaans action on TV will have stared in disbelief as Mount Pleasant — unbeaten in three starts — started to throw out distress signals early in the straight and trailed in 10 lengths behind Paul Peter’s runner Catch TwentyTwo.
Quite rightly, the stipendiary board said: “A word please, Mr Murray. How do you account for your mount’s poor run?”
Murray explained that the colt travelled well, was well positioned and that he was confident Mount Pleasant would close the race off strongly. He added the horse felt sound and that he was at a loss to explain the indifferent performance.
A veterinary surgeon was asked to examine the three-year-old after the race, but nothing obvious was detected.
If Murray thought he would have better luck in the Summer Cup, it wasn’t to be. Charles had run a brilliant race in the Charity Mile but now ran as if his back legs were tied together!
Officially, the former Cape horse, Tristful and Riverstown all finished a “distance” behind the winner. In the UK, they call this “tailed off”.
The stipes revealed that Murray had not enjoyed the smoothest of passages. In their report, they stated: “At the 1,600m mark, Charles was ridden forward to try to secure a position on the inside rail, but had to steady when racing into restricted galloping room on the inside of Astrix which shifted in.
“The stewards determined that Charles had not secured the rightful running on the inside of Astrix and deemed this to be a racing incident.”
This slight setback cannot explain Charles’ failure to finish the race unless he was injured. The veterinary surgeon reported the gelding was “fatigued”.
The most mind-boggling aspect of the meeting was the distances five fancied runners — Mount Pleasant, Bohica, Charles, Pack Leader and Ecstatic Green — got beaten by in their respective races.
Mount Pleasant: Sent off 3-4 favourite and finished over 10 lengths behind the winner in the Dingaans.
Bohica: The Capetown Noir gelding had won his last three starts handsomely and understandably started well backed at 57-20. He now finished over 14 lengths behind the winner in the Merchants. The vet reported the four-year-old was “not striding out left hind”.
Pack Leader: Looked to have everything going for him with a good mass, favourable draw and top jockey. Another case of punters staring in disbelief as the six-year-old trailed in 13 lengths behind the winner. It was reported that he brushed the running rail at the 1,400m mark.
Ecstatic Green: The 43-20 favourite got closer to the winner in the Magnolia Handicap than many beaten fancied contenders, but still was found wanting at the business end and finished six lengths behind Winter Smoke.
After the Summer Cup, jockeys Lyle Hewitson (Cornish Pomodoro) and Chase Maujean (Youcanthurrylove) reported that their mounts “took no interest”.
Of all the explanations for beaten horses, this must be the one that irritates punters the most. Translated into human terms, can one imagine Gary Player in his memorable career pitching up at a tournament and saying “sorry, I don’t feel like playing today”. It would never happen.
Many punters sided with Cornish Pomodoro (17-2) in the Cup for the simple reason that Lyle Hewitson was in the irons. The former champion did not fare any better at the meeting than Murray, though the vet did report that Cornish Pomodoro sustained a “speedy cut left hind and was not striding out left hind”.
Unless you were one of those who kept faith in Summer Pudding at the close of play on Cup day, there will have been a good number of punters not striding out! Almost unbelievable that so many fancied runners could finish out with the washing.