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Zeus made it a hattrick when waltzing in by 5,25 lengths in the Listed Allied Steelrode Java Stakes over 2400m at Turffontein Standside on October 28. That race was named after the 1950s horse Java, a three-time winner of the Johannesburg Summer Handicap (Summer Cup) (Picture: JC Photos). 

Turf Talk

Fabian Habib was in fine form at the Vaal straight course in Thursday with two winners and one of them was running in the same colours as his Betway Summer Cup hope Zeus.

The Soft Falling Rain gelding Zeus is probably the most backed horse in the Summer Cup’s twenty horse field having come in from long odds to be 18/1 with the sponsor, although he is as short as 10/1 on the boards of some firms.

At the time of first entries he was merit rated only 94 so had a lot to do to get in.

However, he then reeled off two impressive victories, by 4,25 lengths over 2400m at the Vaal Classic track and by 5,25 over 2400m at Turffontein Standside. That followed an easy win over 2600m at Turffontein Inside in August.

He showed a fine turn of foot in all of those victories despite carrying 60kg, 58kg and 60 kg respectively.

He is now merit rated 111, so is officially just 1kg under sufferance carrying the minimum weight of 54kg.

Habib spoke to Andrew Bonn about Zeus at the Summer Cup draw ceremony.

He said, “I think from his last run he still has plenty to come. Obviously over this distance there are question marks but with that strong turn of foot if there is a strong pace he must have a massive chance. Obviously he is a better horse over 2400m but I think in my heart he is a massive runner. We have the draw in our favour (draw four). I’m very happy with the draw. It is a very competitive field but I’m very happy with him.”

Habib had four runners Thursday and it was a sign of things to come when he finished third with the 100/1 shot Commander Of All (Captain Of All) in the second race over 1400m.

In the third race his first-timer Taegen’s Champ was backed in to 17/10 favourite.

There was a big ownership presence on course and another tell tale sign was that Gavin Lerena was up.

Lerena has had nine rides for the Habib yard this season and five wins, a strike rate of 55,5%.

Three of those wins were on Zeus, but unfortunately for the connections Lerena is the first call rider for big owner Laurence Wernars and he will therefore be riding the Summer Cup defending champion on Saturday, Puerto Manzano

Taegan’s Champ was very green and there was a worrying moment or two, but he ultimately quickened superbly at the business end to win by 6,50 lengths with the commentary almost being drowned out by the cheering of the excited connections.

Taegan’s Champ is named after the grandson of Fabian Habib’s father-in-law Zack Nassif, whom Fabian described as “the backbone of my yard.”

Young Taegan and others lead in Taegan’s Champ at the Vaal today (Thursday) (4Racing)

Zack Nassif’s Tri-Deal Sixteen CC is a shareholder in both Taegan’s Champ and Zeus and he is also a shareholder in Absolute Value (Master Of My Fate), who later won the sixth race over 2400m under 4kg claimer Kobeli Lihaba.

Jonathan Nassif is a central figure in the yard and is a shareholder in all three of those horses too.

An interesting shareholder in Taegan’s Jet is Johnny Habib.

Johnny Habib is having a fine run as an owner and will be hoping for another Graded win from the superstar he part-owns, the Tony Peter-trained Main Defender (Pathfork), who runs in the Gr 3 New Turf Carriers Merchants over 1160m at the “Big T” on Saturday.