CAPTAIN AMERICA wins Champions Cup
Mike Moon: Two tough, mature campaigners – seven-year-old Captain America and six-year-old Will Pays – claimed the final two Grade 1 titles of the season at Greyville on Saturday.
Late developer Will Pays, from the Mike and Adam Azzie stable, won the 1200m Mercury Sprint, downing quality opposition with a determined gallop up the inside rail.
One race later, Brett Crawford’s gallant Captain America produced a vintage effort to run another top-class field off its feet in the WSB Champions Cup over 1800m. He started at 10-1, with stable companion Undercover Agent at 4-1 and Glen Kotzen’s Eyes Wide Open (2-1) the favourite in an open-looking contest.
Corne Orffer said afterwards that Captain America was the best horse he had ever ridden. The jockey, who knows the best way to win on this Captain Al gelding – letting him roll with his big gallop – got to the front soon after the start and pulled out a three-length lead.
Undercover Agent went in pursuit, with Crowd Pleaser, Perovskia, Tap O’ Noth and another Crawford runner, Sail South, next best.
In the straight, with 500m to run, Captain America looked full of running and there was little sign of anything catching him. And they didn’t. He won by two lengths with Undercover Agent, Eyes Wide Open and Tap O’ Noth in a line for the minor placings.
Captain America has won 10 times from 35 starts and his earnings have edged over R6 million. The connections announced that he would be retired.
Will Pays has also run 35 times, for 12 wins, and shows no sign of slowing down with age. His earnings are approaching R1.9 million and you wouldn’t bet against that increasing before his racing is done.
Pinnacle Peak from the Dorrie Sham yard was backed into 4-1 favouritism for the Mercury Sprint in a very competitive line-up.
Anton Marcus – who a race earlier had won the eLan Gold Cup on It’s My Turn – got his pick-up ride Pinnacle Peak away to a quick start. Rocky Valley (10-1) was also to the fore, with Black Cat Back (16-1), London Call (16-1) and Sunset Eyes (7-1) chasing hard and setting a cracking pace. That speed favoured horses running on, and the backmarkers in the early stages included Will Pays, Attenborough and Trip To Heaven – the latter getting away tardily as is his custom.
In the straight, Black Cat Back surged to the front, with Sunset Eyes also in the reckoning. Craig Zackey steered Will Pays up the inside rail and made his presence felt, with Attenborough and Trip To Heaven passing horses up the centre of the course.
The tough-as-teak Will Pays dug deep under Zackey’s urgings, got to the lead and clung on to win by a length. Attenborough got up for second, with Trip To Heaven 0.25 lengths behind and Sunset Eyes a further half-length adrift in fourth.