CORAL Fever, the 2018 Highveld Horse Of The Year, was friendless in the market before the start of the Gr 2 Peermont Emperors Palace Charity Mile at Turffontein on Saturday, but he won anyway, going off at 18-1.
Big weights and wide draws almost always sway punters elsewhere, even when it comes to a class act like Coral Fever, who had 61kg to shoulder and was drawn 14-16. Punters preferred to side with the up-and-coming Noble Secret (55kg), who had been Gr1 placed in nine career outings, but in hindsight needed more than 6kg from the multiple Graded winning top weight to make an impression.
So did the second-favourite Matador Man, who’d hacked up in Durban a month ago, but in a much weaker field. His best class indicator was a Gr2-placing in the Greyville 1900.
The Durban July formline worked out well. Coral Fever stormed up late from among a brigade of hammer-and-tongs triers, responding to Muzi Yeni’s rhythmic use of a left-handed stick and they got up on the line from Tilbury Fort.
Coral Fever and Tilbury Fort had finished within a short-head of each other behind Do It Again in South Africa’s flagship race, Tilbury Fort with his nose in front on that occasion. The form was franked, if one followed the right collateral line and made provision for Coral Fever enjoying a good prep run since!
Turf Talk fancied the chance of Doosra (our 25-1 value bet on Friday), who found good support to start at 8-1 and came close to pulling it off, beaten a long neck into third after grinding hard late in the race. His R2,50 a tote place eased the pain somewhat.
Coral Fever won R150,000 for his associated charity, Khangezile Primary. His celebrity, Pallance Dladla, and representatives of his media partner, Sunday World Online, were on hand to receive the cheque.
Trainer Robbie Sage has done a remarkable job with Coral Fever, whose high rating limits his racing opportunities. He had the big gelding by Varsfontein’s stallion Judpot well prepared for this contest and would have left a little something to work on going into the Gr1 Summer Cup, a month away.
Owned by Colin Bird and partner Sylvia Vrska, Coral Fever has won seven of 23 starts and R4,118.025 in stakes. He was raised by Ashley and Rose Parker at Ascot Stud.
Headline photo: Coral Fever (nearest camera) gets up to win from Tilbury Fort (yellow silks) and Doosra (obscured). Arctica (green and pink) finished fourth. (JC Photos).