JUST a few weeks ago there wouldn’t have been a gambler on planet earth predicting that bread-and-butter handicapper Dan The Lad, by Dan De Lago, would contest a well-prized and rare South African match race. And win it!

Racing, however, often defies all known scenarios and predictions and produces the most amazing stories. While Dan The Lad got in by default, he looked proud and strode out beautifully on his way to his 1475-metre clash with the punters’ favourite Tsitsikamma Dance at the Vaal, Saturday – perhaps because he knew that, surprising as it may be, he’d come quite a long way and deserved his spot!

Dan The Lad was selected and bought by the shrewd Mike Bass from the CTS Book 2 Sale in 2013, fetching R130,000, but he failed the veterinarian’s scope and was returned to his
breeder Philip Kahan at The Alchemy Stud.

Kahan had a wind operation performed on the young horse, Dan The Lad fully recovered and was later sold off the farm to visiting owner Fanie Bronkhorst.

“Fanie paid a lot less than 130k for Dan The Lad, so it was a lucky acquisition and we’re all smiling for this unexpected Christmas bonus,” said trainer Paul Matchett, who was
understandably thrilled.

“Stuart Pettigrew had made up his mind not to run Soldier On in the match race and I guess we must thank him for that, though he won’t be getting a chop of the proceeds. He must be quite flush after the sale of his big horse Surcharge,” joked Matchett.

Dan The Lad won off a MR82 and Matchett said: “He’s effective anywhere from the late 70s to 90 merit, so off his current 82 he can win again. Also, he loves this time of year. He can be followed between October and December.” 

Dan The Lad was physically so well that he disposed of the useful Tsitsikamma Dance with not much fuss, dictating the gallop under a professional ride from S’Manga Khumalo, who only gave him a few shoulder taps to keep going under hands and heels.

“S’manga watched some videos of his runs and he noticed that Fransie Herholdt wasn’t too vigorous on Dan The Lad in the WSB Grand Series race. He decided to ride him that way. We also know that he is hard to pass when he gets his head in front. He’s a tough horse, he actually doesn’t mind a few slaps, but on the day S’Manga rode him perfectly.”

And so, an unfashionably-bred yearling who was operated on before he even raced and was bought, “second-hand” is approaching millionaire status with five wins and 13 places from 33 starts, and his name will be contained in racing’s history books. 

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