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The Clinton Binda-trained two-year-old Qhawe Lami provided Calvin Habib with a winner in his first meeting back from Singapore (JC Photos) 


Todays’s fourth race at Turffontein Inside, a Maiden Plate over 1000m, was an intriguing affair in that it was fought out by two jockeys who had both departed South Africa for green pastures during this season, but had returned upon discovering the grass was not greener on the other side.

Calvin Habib could not handle racing only once a week in Singapore and this was his first meeting back after cutting his sojourn short to just three months.
Craig Zackey has been back in SA since early March after cutting his successful Graded-winning sojourn to New Zealand short to just a four month stint.
Habib had a ride in  the second so this was just his second ride back.
He was on the Clinton Binda-trained Hollywood Syndicate-owned Ridgemont-bred Duke Of Marmalade two-year-old gelding Qhawe Lami, who had failed in his last start in a Grade 3 over 1100m, but before that had finished a close up third in a Listed race over 1000m.
It augured well he was dropping back 100m to 1000m, although he had a tricky draw of six and started at odds of 5/2.
Zackey was aboard the Johan Janse van Vuuren-trained three-year-old first-timer Empress Game, a Geoff Armitage-bred Pathfork filly who is a full-sister to Esquevelle, a three-time winner who won on debut over 1160m.
Empress Game was the subject of a flood of support, shortening from an opening 17/2 into 18/10 favourite.
She was drawn in pole and got a good break and ended up on the rail behind the leader.
Habib brought Qhawe Lami alongside the favourite and being without cover might have won him the race, because the favourite did not look comfortable behind a relatively slow leader.
They switched either side of the latter and then came together at the 350m mark.
A thrilling ding dong tussle ensued and it was in the balance until Qhawe Lami exerted his authority in the final 50m to win by half-a-length. 
It was the Hollywood Syndicate’s 106th win of the season and enabled them to increase their slender lead over reigning champion owners Drakenstein Stud at the top of the table.
It was Habib’s 72nd win of the season in SA.
He had only two wins in over 50 rides in Singapore, but did not site that as the reason for his return.
He said he had enjoyed every moment of the experience and was able to incorporate riding on a new track and against jockeys with different styles into his knowledge bank.
However, he concluded the post-race interview by saying, “I am just happy to be back and to be back in the winner’s enclosure.”