SAMURAI WARRIOR & PIERE STRYDOM
Mike Moon: Red-hot favourite Hawwaam was scratched from the Grade 1 SA Derby after bolting from the parade ring and running loose to the starting stalls.
The 2450m Grade 1 race was won by Samurai Warrior, but further drama ensued when a race review was called following some bumping among the leaders in the closing stages. However, the result stood and veteran jockey Piere Strydom was able to celebrate a rare Oaks-Derby double on the day.
Hawwaam – trained by Mike de Kock and officially rated the 10th best racehorse in the world – was quoted at 1-6 to win the famous old race, the third leg of the Triple Crown series.
After playing up in the parade ring and getting away from his handlers, the superstar breezed the short distance down the racecourse to the starting stalls, where he was quickly caught. But, after a vet check, he was withdrawn.
As punters scrambled to rearrange their bets, Sean Tarry’s colt Zillzaal became the favourite at 26-10, with De Kock’s other runner, Atyaab, coming in to 3-1. Samurai Warrior shortened from 40-1 to 11-1.
From the break, Strydom took Samurai Warrior into the lead – much to the consternation of the connections. Atyaab and Owlinthetree (10-1) followed the pedestrian canter.
Strydom is a master of pace and set fractions that were perfect for his mount. In the straight Zillzaal moved up from midfield in the company of KwaZulu-Natal raider Marchingontogether.
In the dash for the line, any one of four horses looked capable of winning it, but Strydom, in inimitable style, got something extra from his mount and eased clear to win by a length.
Zillzaal was second, Marchingontogether third and Atyaab fourth – these three being some four lengths ahead of the rest.
Assistant trainer Mathew de Kock said later that Hawwaam was “OK” and would fight another day. He said the right decision had been taken to scratch the colt. He explained that the son of Silvano had been spooked when a jockey tumbled from another horse nearby.
Earlier, “Striker” Strydom had won the Grade 2 Wilgerbosdrift SA Oaks on Sean Tarry-trained Return Flight – this time coming from off the shoulder of the front runner (see separate article).