IT’s quite amazing what a difference three weeks have made in the life of Rainbow Bridge, the four-year-old powerhouse who won Saturday’s R5-million Gr1 Sun Met over 2000m at Kenilworth with a measure of ease after being beaten almost out of sight by Saturday’s runner-up Do It Again, in the Gr1 Queen’s Plate on 5 January.
In contrast to his Queen’s Plate run, Rainbow Bridge carried no patches of sweat in the preliminaries (at least not visible to those of us who had to watch the race on television). He didn’t pull uncontrollably or shake his head like a steed possessed. He settled beautifully, kicked for home first when the pressure came on, pulling away from Do It Again, and won as he liked. Anton Marcus eased down at the line, the Queen’s Plate roles thoroughly reversed. Go watch the replay!
Marcus and Moutonshoek CEO Colin Gordon, the spokesman for Rainbow Bridge’s late owner Chris Gerber, put the remarkable run down to heavenly assistance. Marcus ventured that Gerber had “put a GPS” on Rainbow Bridge, while Gordon said that his late boss would have been “shouting the loudest in Heaven’s Tote!”.
Gerber, who died unexpectedly last October whilst in great anticipation of the build-up to the Met, would have enjoyed their chirps, but the realist and gentleman that he was, would’ve given all the credit to trainer Eric Sands who focused, stuck to his guns in the face of criticism and doubt and produced Rainbow Bridge in tip-top shape for his ultimate mission, the Sun Met.
“I have a lot of people to thank,” said the modest Sands after the race, most of all Chris Gerber, who will have been watching this. We left a gap for Chris on the podium photo, if it wasn’t for his patience with Rainbow Bridge we may not have been here today.”
Asked about Rainbow Bridge’s temperament, Sands said: “He’s a piece of cake at home, you can put a baby in his box. It’s only when he gets on the float that he starts playing up.”
Gordon noted that, during a visit to Rainbow Bridge’s stable earlier this week, the gelding had been “playful, like a little lion.” He said: “I phoned Bridget (Gerber, widow), to tell her that the horse had acted such, a lot like Chris!”
Rainbow Bridge is clearly maturing and perhaps, as noted, learning to behave a bit better in a race. We’d argue that this alone played the most significant role in his superb win. He also stays very well – there were doubts about this when he was one-paced and well beaten in the Queen’s Plate, though the replay of that race shows that, after a flatfooted patch, he starts picking it up again near the line, and runs on past the post. This was a clue missed by most pundits.
Do It Again ran a good race and was gallant in a strong-finishing second, though one got the impression that he was just a fraction below the version of himself we saw in the Queen’s Plate. Justin Snaith summed up what we saw: “Do It Again was a long way back and Richard Fourie tried all he could to get him into the race, but he wasn’t interested early. He flew up late, but was beaten by a better horse on the day.”
The head-on replay shows that Do It Again shifted both ways over the last 200m, proving a handful. He grabbed the bit over the last 50m and tried to get onto terms, but it was too late.
Head Honcho set the pace and acquitted himself very well in third, running to form for Andre Nel and his connections.
Legal Eagle, ridden from behind, also posted an admirable run, staying on for fifth. Sean Tarry’s star has life in him yet and there are stake cheques coming his way this Highveld Autumn.
While both Rainbow Bridge (off to the farm) and Do It Again will be rested, they are likely to cross swords again in the KZN Champions Seasons. Both will have outgrown their baby shoes by then, and more mouthwatering clashes await us.
Rainbow Bridge was bred by Wilgerbosdrift/Mauritzfontein and provided Mauritzfontein’s resident stallion Ideal World with his second Met win in four years, following Smart Call’s success in 2019. He boasts stake earnings of R3,63-million from only eight starts.
Photos by Wayne Marks.