Will there be a fairy­tale end­ing for racing’s Roger Fed­erer?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - AN­DREW HAR­RI­SON

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.

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