Linebacker came home with a wet sail to score a resounding victory in the Jonsson Workwear Cape Derby (Grade 1) over 2000m on Saturday. This was justice served after a series of tough beat seconds in four successive Stakes races. “I knew he had the race won in an instant, he just got there so easily and it’s scary how good he is!” extolled jockey Grant van Niekerk, after piloting the son of Captain Of All with aplomb.

Linebacker surged from near the back of the field with a smooth, well-timed run down the centre of the long Kenilworth straight to win this highly prized race for superior middle distance three year-olds. Leading market rivals, Rascallion and The Gatekeeper were engaged in a spirited duel and for a moment looked like they would battle for glory, but when the bay gelding was unleashed by van Niekerk, it was all over.

Trainer Vaughan Marshall, who had the distinction of saddling this Grade 1 exacta as Rascallion held second, said that the more work he threw at Linebacker and further he stretched his limits in training, the more the horse thrived. Any doubts about Klawervlei Stud bred thoroughbred lasting home over this longer route were dispelled in his mind beforehand after some bullet work -outs, and the race itself showcased Marshall’s vastly experienced handling of quality Classic performers.

Rascallion was beaten with every chance as Anton Marcus comfortably stalked badly unsettled pace setter, Russian Rock before making his move at the 400m. The Gatekeeper made the anticipated improvement to challenge for the placings and is another that will be a real force with added physical maturity during the upcoming KZN Winter season.

The 1200m Khaya Stables Diadem Stakes (G2) fell to heavily punted Rio Querari. This muscular ball of energy capped a stellar Cape Summer season quickening up smartly down the inner and remarkably, given the quality of opposition including multiple G1/G2 winners, just freewheeled in under hot-jock’s Grant van Niekerk hand ride.

Rio Querari possessed the desirable upwardly mobile profile of a primed sprinter producing career bests, unlike market rivals Kasimir and Russet Air who, whilst seriously accomplished older speedballs, are seemingly on a downward curve in their careers. Neither could keep pace with Rio Querari when it counted, and it was left to long shots, Hello Winter Hello and Cartel Captain to pick up the pieces way back in 2nd and 3rd.

Earlier, Zarina swooshed past very game front runner Icon Princess to take out the Vasco Prix du Cap (G3) under an inspired ride by Oswald Noach, who seized the light -weight engagement with relish. Zarina is quite a feisty filly yet she can certainly turn on the afterburners when in the mood and she bombed past in the final 200, to win with authority.

The daughter of Master of My Fate emerged with credit when third in the Fillies Classic over the course and distance behind Princess Calla in October. A subsequent win against older rivals also over this Kenilworth 1400m after a torrid trip confirmed her talent and she duly delivered in a true run contest. Icon Princess and Maledimo pressed the pace and kept on doughtily for place money with Lemon Delight filling a difficult Quartet sequence.

Hot favourite Clouds Unfold was never a factor after a tough series of recent races and she will now be retired to Drakenstein Stud. This daughter of What a Winter has compiled an admirable record under the sympathetic handling of Candice Bass Robinson but there was to be no celebratory send off for the nine- time winning mare having her 21st start.

Both the Cape of Good Hope Nursery (G3) and Kenilworth Fillies Nursery (G3) were won using similar hold-up tactics down the 1200m straight into a mild south east breeze. Cosmic Highway (trained by Dean Kannemeyer) quickened away in great style to win the opener despite a tardy get-away, whilst Gimme Dat, also sired by Gimmethegreenlight, came from well off the early speed to win the Fillies Nursery by open lengths from Winter Mosiac, in a race dominated by Snaith Racing entries.

Former Champion miler, Gimmethegreenlight is consistently near the top of the stallion rankings in South Africa and he’s yet again produced smart youngsters with great potential. Given that some very fine juveniles have won these prestigious Nurseries over the years, the future engagements of both Cosmic Highway and Gimme Dat should be followed with interest.

Words: Mark van Deventer

Photos: Chase Liebenberg