WHY is that racing brings even more joy and that guaranteed lump in the throat when the ‘underdog’ wins?

Alistair Cohen, presenting in the Tellytrack studio on Friday evening, posed something along these lines after four-year-old gelding Perovskia (18-1) had beaten Undercover Agent (19-20) in the R500,000 Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes over 1400m on turf at Greyville.

Perovskia, a single runner brought all the way from windy Milnerton for the KZN Champions Season by Harold Crawford, provided the veteran trainer with the biggest win of his career. Crawford sent out his first runner in February 1976 and enjoyed Gr2 success only once before when his War Raider beat the Durban July winner Gondolier in the Betrams VO Handicap at Fairview in 1985.

Give the man a brandy! We’re talking about a 42-year career with one big-race photo on the Crawford family’s wall, but Perovskia brought the Listed Jet Master Stakes to frame at Kenilworth two months ago and soon the prestigious Drill Hall Stakes will be hanging up there too.

Crawford’s daughter and assistant trainer Michelle Rix has brought new life to the stable in recent seasons – and to Harold himself – he has a fresh sparkle in his eyes and walks around with his chest out, and deservedly so.

Perovskia (nearest camera), fights on to win.
Perovskia (nearest camera), fights on to win.

Michelle told Turf Talk recently that she’s not shy to ask owners for support (“they can only say no!”) and the team has provided results for a small band of owners, with 9 wins and 55 places from a small string. Things are looking rosy for the stable for the first time in a while.

Perovskia, as reported on Turf Talk and in our newsletter as early as January this year, is a horse that loves a fight and hates to lose, so much so that rival jockeys have commented on it.  Corne Orffer had the Drill Hall almost won on the favourite Undercover Agent when he came back to head Perovskia with 100m to run, but Callan Murray’s mount produced his usual fight and at the line had his head just in front, though the small margin arguably flattered the runner-up.

While he has perhaps already done enough on form to sneak into the Vodacom Durban July, the Drill Hall is not a qualifying race for the big contest. The Cup Trail is, and that will be Perovskia’s next mission, Rix said. She thanked her KZN team and trainer Dennis Bosch, who stables the gelding, for their assistance. July qualification is a dream for Harold and his family and we hope that the game son of Russian Sage can run well again in the Cup Trial to ensure he gets in – a first-three finish may do and there will be plenty of supporters holding thumbs.

As for Callan Murray – he rode another well judged-race, again showed his big-match temperament with a Graded success and is certainly getting better as a rider, all-round.

The underdog stallion Russian Sage will never be able to fully prove himself – he was apparently gelded and has been showjumping in the Karoo after having limited opportunities, but Perovskia has helped us to remember his sire and we suspect this story is not over yet – he may still put Russian Sage’s name in lights!

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