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“This is a proper horse; very, very talented”, says Lensley.

Mike Moon (The Citizen)

There was no shortage of thrills at Scottsville Racecourse this past weekend as Alesian Chief won the Grade 1 Golden Horse Sprint. 

The sight of tiny jockey Muzi Yeni being hugged by two extremely large gents in the Scottsville winner’s circle on Saturday was one of the highlights of an exciting day’s action at Maritzburg’s annual sprint fest. The little ace had just won the Grade 1 Golden Horse Sprint aboard 8-1 shot Alesian Chief and the hefty blokes were co-owner Peet Bonzaaier and a friend.

Alesian Chief safe and sound at home, having come through his race well, is visited by chief owner Peet Boonzaaier and his son Petrus Boonzaaier on Monday morning.

“If I’d been there, it would have been three very big guys,” chuckled trainer and co-owner Corrie Lensley on Monday as he reflected on his first Grade 1 victory. King-sized Lensley missed his biggest day in the game as he was at the wedding of his son  Léan, in the bush somewhere near Polokwane.

His “wife and stable employee” Emmie was on hand at Scottsville to saddle three-year-old colt Alesian Chief and give an emotional television interview that had every viewer feeling the warm sentiment that wafts around whenever a small stable lands a big one.

There was special poignancy as Lensley was one of the Kimberley stalwarts who had to upend families and lives when Northern Cape racing was shut down permanently by the pandemic in 2020. He had been Northern Cape champion trainer twice in recent years – in partnership with multiple champion rider Yeni.

The yard’s initial relocation to Cape Town did not work out, but a last-ditch switch to the Vaal got things clicking again and the local game thankfully still has one of its more colourful – and talented – practitioners.

The triumph at Scottsville, in one of South Africa’s most demanding and prized 1200m contests, had come as no surprise to Lensley.

“This is a proper horse; very, very talented. Also, Muzi gave us a lot of confidence after riding him in work at the Vaal during the week. Even on Saturday morning, I spoke to Muzi and he said we’d be a massive runner.

“It definitely wasn’t a fluke,” he added. Racing experts would agree after watching Alesian Chief surge to the front early in the Golden Horse and then hold off challenges from a gaggle of top-line sprinters up the tough finishing stretch.

“He’d won a Listed sprint and a Grade 3 at Turffontein and was unlucky in the Computaform Sprint, when he missed the break and was only 2.80 lengths behind in fourth.”

The form was there for punters who sensed the son of Vercingetorix had the ability to win this one.

A doubt had been that he’d never gone the distance before, having been confined to 1000m-1100m. Also, Alesian Chief carried 58.5kg, the second-heaviest impost among Golden Horse three-year-old winners in the past decade and more – after JJ The Jet Plane. Proper horse, indeed.

Alesian Chief safe and sound at home, having come through his race well, is visited by chief owner Peet Boonzaaier and his son Petrus Boonzaaier on Monday morning.

Lensley said the colt returned to his Vaal home in good order but would be given a short break and chance to regain condition ahead of the next assignment. That is likely to be the 1200m Mercury Sprint (Grade 1) at Greyville on Gold Cup day at the end of July.

The trainer describes his star as “a real alpha male” and not the easiest to handle. “It’s always a fine line with him. We keep him away from other horses and people; he likes to lash out and kick!”

Alesian Chief was an inexpensive purchase off a farm and his R870,000 earnings to date already represent a massive profit to his massive owners.

Top Picture: Alesian Chief and a delighted Muzi Yeni (Candiese Lenferna)