Eyes Wide Open has the class
GLEN Kotzen had a red letter Gold Cup Festival Of Racing weekend and so did his clients Chrigor Stud, whose wonderfully conspicuous colours are becoming a familiar sight in South African racing.
Kotzen sent out four runners over the weekend for the Chrigor Stud operation of Hugo and Suzanne Hattingh and the yellow with royal blue checked diamonds with red sleeves and cap and royal blue diamond found the winner’s enclosure three times including in a Grade 1 and a Grade 3.
The Highlands Farm Stud-bred Dynasty colt Eyes Wide Open was the headliner as he ran on strongly to win the Grade 1 Premier’s Champions Stakes over 1 600m, thus completing a Festival Grade 1 double for jockey Richard Fourie.
He jumped from draw six and was momentarily caught wide and headstrong around the turn, but Fourie managed to get him tucked in again one wide and he travelled beautifully from then on in.
In the straight he moved up under the hands from midfield in the thirteen horse field and then had to be switched outward. Once he saw daylight he wound up into his impressive stride and won going away by half-a-length from Ancestry.
He will be a serious classic horse this season and could well follow in the footsteps of the Chrigor Stud part-owned Gold Standard and become a Sun Met contender.
He was bought at the Sibaya KZN Yearling Sale last year and fetched the sale second highest price of R850,000.
He was then sent to Jane Thomas in the KZN Midlands to be spelled before making her way to Kotzen’s Woodhill Racing Estate in the Paardeberg near Cape Town.
He showed himself to be smart, “a proper horse”, from day one and was earmarked for the R1 million KZN Yearling Sales race on Vodacom Durban July day, as long as he was ready in time.
However, as it happened he became “shin sore” and was only able to make his debut on June 21 in a 1 400m Maiden Juvenile Plate. He stayed on for a respectable third that day. However, it was his next start that confirmed Kotzen’s belief in the colt as cruised to a 3,5 length victory in a Maiden over 1 600m.
“It was his time which was impressive,” said Kotzen.
“He ran a quicker time than the MR 82 handicap on the day and it was up with a top division mile time.” One person who was confident he would win was Anton Marcus.
The top jockey, known for his expert analysis of form, phoned for the ride and when Kotzen confirmed his stable jockey Richard Fourie would be aboard Marcus apparently said he would in that case rather watch the race from the stand. Marcus proved right. Kotzen had two other runners in the race, Sea King and the Chrigor Stud-owned Pack Leader.
Sea King, formerly owned by Kotzen and his son Kuyan together with T Muthusamy, was bought by Greenstreet Bloodstock before the race and the Judpot colt finished a 1,15 length fifth.
Kotzen said Pack Leader’s rider Craig Zackey had said he might have won the race if a gap had not closed on him at a crucial stage.
The Philanthropist colt finished a 1,45 length seventh. Earlier in the day Varsfontein Stud-bred Chrigor Stud-owned Captain Al filly Princess Peach had won the Grade 3 The Sunlife Vitamins Debutante Stakes over 1 200m under Fourie, when seeing off the challenge of the highly regarded Neptune’s Rain. Kotzen said she was a bit of a quirky filly, “a real madam”. However, this is not unusual for a talented filly. He added, “She is really smart and came right at the right time.
Her pedigree suggests she will want a mile and she has a helluva action, so we will likely go the Guineas route with her.”
Kotzen won the first race of the day, a Maiden Plate over 1 000m on the poly with Edith’s Rose, a What A Winter filly ridden by Randolph.
He said, “It was very exciting to provide Morris Ferreira with his 80th winner on such a big day.”
Kotzen also acknowledged the fine work put in by Ferreira’s racing manager Des Goncalves.
He was full of praise for the improving Edith’s Rose and continued, “She won in a fantastic time.”
Her chief target will be one of the expensive sales races over 1 400m. Kotzen ended Sunday by pulling off a fine training feat. The six-year-old Greys Inn gelding Gone Baby Gone was off for about a yearand-a-half with injury at one stage and he has brought him back slowly but steadily this year.
He won a MR 94 Handicap over 1 900 on the polytrack on Sunday under Erico Saziso Ngwane.
On day one of the Festival on Saturday Kotzen won with the speedy Chrigor Stud-owned Gee Whizz, a two-year-old filly by Sail From Seattle who did well to beat older fillies over 1 000m in a MR 82 Handicap under Fourie.
However, she will now have to go for a wind operation as she has a breathing issue. Kotzen's looks to have an exciting classic season ahead of him and his yard look to have a good chance of making a few headlines.