Will there be a fairytale ending for racing’s Roger Federer?
ROGER FEDERER does it. Serena Williams did it. Pocket Power, South Africa’s champion racehorse, is a past master – getting up off the canvas and knocking them dead that is.
Tennis champion Federer is a notoriously slow starter and he gave his supporters heart attacks with his pedestrian start against Nikolay Davydenko in the current Australian Open before waking up and wiping the floor with his hapless opponent.
Williams too opened the door wide for Victoria Azarenka before an emphatic final set exhibition of power tennis set up victory.
Pocket Power can give them both similar lessons in the art of deception.
The nation’s champion equine athlete has largely flown under the radar as far as mainstream sports coverage is concerned but there is no doubt that in his field, Pocket Power, is the equal of a Federer or a Williams and victory in today’s R2,5 million J&B Met will cement his reputation as one of the greatest ever as he bids for an unprecedented fourth straight victory in this jewel in the national racing crown.
A more remarkable record may be that Pocket Power is unbeaten in 15 straight starts around the left-handed Kenilworth bend and even at seven years of age, few will bet against the champion taking his winning tally to 19 from 34 starts and boosting his stake earnings to over R10 million for owners Marsh Shirtliff and Rina and Arthur Webber.
But if you are a Pocket Power supporter and prone to high blood pressure and a dickey heart, take your pills before setting yourself up in front of the TV or heading out to Kenilworth where an expected crowd of over 50 000 will be there to roar the 18runner field home.
The champ’s attention seems to wonder in the early part of his races but big race rider, Bernhard Fayd’Herbe, grandson of one of South Africa’s greatest ever jockeys, Harold ‘Tiger’ Wright, knows his partner’s every idiosyncrasy and never panics although at t imes he has every reason to.
Interviewed this week, Fayd’Herbe said he feels that Pocket Power is still the horse to beat.
“I don’t think his age will stop him,” he said. “There’s no mistaking that he’s not young anymore, but he still won the Queen’s Plate as well as he’s ever done. He’s never won easily before, he always does just enough. No matter what race, he will never win by far.”
Is Pocket Power’s infamous “flat spot” real or imagined? “It’s definitely there,” said Fayd’Herbe. “He picks it up at the top of the straight and then just sort of hovers for a while. It’s really annoying, but I’m used to it and it doesn’t worry me anymore, because I know he’s going to kick again later on.”
Fayd’Herbe elaborated on Pocket Power’s now famous victory surge, in which a matter of strides he leaves his rivals for dead a la Federer. “He is a horse who really wants to win, but I do have to ride him hard until the end because he tends to think he’s done enough when he’s hit the front.”
The real ace in Pocket Power’s support system is trainer Mike Bass and his stable crew. Bass has orchestrated Pocket Power’s career like a Tchaikovsky concerto with hardly a false note and the grand horse can add the finale on his home turf at Kenilworth this afternoon.
THE CHOSEN ONE: Pocket Power (Bernard Fay'dHerbe) beats Dancer’s Daughter in last year’s J & B Met.