THE recently formed training partnership of Riaan van Reenen and Carl Burger provided the weekend’s shock result when their three-year-old filly Royal Fleece (66-1) won the last race at Durbanville under jockey Craig du Plooy, ensuring a R133,088 Pick 6 return to only 4.85 winning tickets.

Royal Fleece didn’t come into the race with decidedly horrendous form – there were glimpses of some ability in five previous starts and with her rivals also on the moderate side, her trainers decided on new tactics and the plan came off.

Van Reenen explains: “To date, Royal Fleece has been doing her exercise gallops at Durbanville due to the unavailability of Kenilworth, so she knows the track well and she’s actually put up some good pieces of work here recently.

Craig du Plooy (left, blue cap, Royal Fleece), riding to instructions and a plan came together.
Craig du Plooy (left, blue cap, Royal Fleece), riding to instructions and a plan came together.

“We felt, if anything, she had a bit of a track advantage, but from what we’ve seen in her previous starts is that she tends to give up when she feels pressure around her. She gallops strong for a while and throws in the towel when horses starts bunching up around her.

“Royal Fleece was drawn wide on Saturday so we told Craig du Plooy to ride her as hard as possible from that draw to get into the lead so she could gallop freely without anything on her side.  He did that very well, Royal Fleece got to the front and just stayed there, very rewarding for us!”

Van Reenen believes Royal Fleece will win again and commented: “She needs some time to furnish, she still goes for a nap immediately after work so she’s still somewhat immature.  She’s had a run over 2000m and failed, but we’d like to try her over that distance again later in her career. I think she can win again, perhaps even more than just one more race.

The look very serious on these mug shots, but Riaan and Carl are very approachable and deserve support.
They look very serious on these mug shots, but Riaan and Carl are very approachable and deserve support.

The Van Reenen/Burger partnership was formed when the new season started on 1 August after Burger had the terrible setback of losing a leg, followed by a quadruple heart bypass. They’ve had three winners and several places in the seven weeks since and Van Reenen says: “We have just 21 horses in the string, but combining forces at Phillipi has served us well, we’ve saved costs and the owners are happy. I think there are good times ahead, there are a few very nice horses in the stable and we’re hoping to get a few more.”

Asked how Carl Burger handled the unexpected setbacks he’s had to deal with, Van Reenen said: “Carl is a fighter. He just came out of hospital recently and he’s working at the training track and has already gone racing. He’s a bit weak still, but I know he is fine because his mouth is running like we know it can run! I’m helping him to build a gym at his house, he is exercising and getting stronger.”

Royal Fleece is owned by the partnership of Francois Barnard, Paul Zeeman, George Eveleigh and Dr Andre de Villiers.  Bred by Collingwood Stud, she’s a daughter of Argonaut from the family of Gypsy’s Warning.  She’s worth keeping an eye on.

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