Linebacker laid down the three-year-old marker for the Vodacom Durban July with a smart victory in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday.
Trained by Vaughan Marshall and ridden by Grant van Niekerk, Linebacker (5-4) moved up on the outside of the field and despite hanging in, managed to beat stable companion Rascallion (25-2) by 0.70 lengths with Kommetdieding (5-2) another short head back in third. Pace setter Shah Akbar ran fourth.
It was an uncomplicated race for Grant van Niekerk who had Linebacker tracking Kommetdieding as Shah Akbar and Infinite Wonder barrelled off to the front.
Coming up the hill, Van Niekerk began to pressure Kommetdieding and off the false rail was almost up-sides his rival. Van Niekerk kept Linebacker wide out with Sihle Cele taking the shorter way home.
Although wide apart, the race developed into a two-horse contest but Linebacker slowly wore down his opponent, and although shifting across the course, he went on to win comfortably with Rascallion, as in the Grade 1 Cape Derby, making it a one-two for Marshall, catching Kommetdieding on the line.
Speaking up the upcoming Vodacom Durban July, Marshall said: “That’s what we’re here for.”
If there were any doubts about the ability of Triple Tiara winner War Of Athena, they were firmly put to bed in the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000.
The opposition in the three races of the Triple Tiara did not appear to be the strongest as Paul Matchett’s filly put them to the sword, hardly raising a sweat in the process.
Following in the footsteps of last year’s Triple Tiara winner, Summer Pudding, War Of Athena went from the SA Oaks into the Woolavington off a similar record but while Summer Pudding was made to work harder in all the Triple Tiara races and the Woolavington, War Of Athena accomplished the feat with seemingly plenty to spare.
In a field reduced to six runners Only The Brave, stable companion to War Of Athena set a sedate pace with Muzi Yeni tucked in behind her with Grant van Niekerk given a watching brief on Princess Calla.
At the top of the straight, War Of Athena (7-10) moved in to tackle a tiring Only The Brave with Van Niekerk electing to switch into the middle of the pack and forced to wait for a couple of strides. Given daylight, Princess Calla hung in sharply, hampering Netta with Warren Kennedy having to snatch up.
For a few strides, it looked as if Princess Calla would get to War Of Athena, but once Yeni switched his stick to his left hand, War Of Athena appeared to find another gear, and she drew off to win comfortably with Princess Calla hard-pressed to hold Scented Mistress at bay for second.
Matchett was not to be drawn on whether the filly would go on to the Vodacom Durban July. “It’s looking like it’s possible. But we will see how she comes out of it in the next three or four days and we will take it from there.”