VIKRAM WINS CAPE MERCHANTS
Vikram caused a major stir when surging past Bereave and Captain Fontane in a pulsating finish to win the Cape Merchants over 1200m at Kenilworth on Saturday.
This lightly raced six-year-old Gimmethegreenlight gelding, who came into the race a four-time winner from 17 starts, had been competing over 1600m to 1800m prior to a 280-day layoff, so it represented a master stroke by trainer Andre Nel to revive his charge and win a quality Grade 2 sprint handicap.
Nel revealed Vikram had sustained a tendon injury when winning his last start back in February 2021. He has steadily been nursed back to health with plenty of beach work and rehabilitation along the West Coast, combined with tender loving care by Plattner Racing’s dedicated team of stable staff. It was a fitting triumph for Nel who has now been in prominent owner Sabine Plattner’s employ for 20 years.
Sandile Mbele piloted the winner with great flair, bringing the 50-1 biggest outsider from last. “Vikram is just so versatile, he can compete from sprints up to 2000m,” was Nel’s justifiably satisfied review, although most punters were left reeling.
Low-weighted Bereave handled the step up in class, making a bold move from off the pace to only just be denied in the run to the wire. He was backed in at long odds to 12-1, nearly converting cagey outside support and proving he belongs against this level of opposition.
Firm 5-2 favourite Captain Fontane tried hard, keeping on resolutely after attending a strong early pace. This was his first defeat after winning four on the bounce in KZN, but he still emerged with credit given how exposed he was racing handily in the centre of the track into a stiff southeaster headwind. He also unfortunately stepped in a large divot when making a potentially race-winning move – all told a tough beat for trainer Garth Puller’s raider.
While the Merchants was won using extreme hold-up tactics, Pomp and Power at 8-1 received a perfectly judged front running ride under Grant van Niekerk to stave off favoured Cosmic Highway by 0.30 lengths in the Concorde Cup (Grade 2) over 1600m. Good Traveller kept on for third place.
With the track running fast, Van Niekerk seized the initiative on the chestnut son of Vercingetorix, securing a soft lead with a tailwind helping down the back, then conserving enough energy to run a laboured final 400m in 24 seconds – which still proved sufficient.
Pomp and Power reeled off three successive wins in winter including the historic Langerman staged for the better juveniles in the Cape, then was put away for this summer campaign. Trainer Justin Snaith explained: “Pomp and Power needed his first run back and today ran a cracker, showing fight.”
Indeed, the combination of an outstanding, Van Niekerk getting the fractions spot on combined with the game determination of his mount proved decisive in the end.
Cosmic Highway probably conceded too much start, but trainer Dean Kannemeyer was not that disheartened with the performance of the 14-10 fancy. The Cape Guineas remains Cosmic Highway’s main mission. “He quickened well, made up six lengths and then could just not get past. This was his second run back and I’ll have him stripped for the Guineas.”