The Fabian Habib-trained Soft Falling Rain gelding Zeus wins for the tenth time at Turffontein on Saturday and in all ten of the wins he has been ridden by Gavin Lerena (JC Photos)
Gavin Lerena had a four-timer on Guineas day at Turffontein Standside and this included two special horses, the David Nieuwenhuizen-trained Gimmethegreenlight colt Sandringham Summit and the Fabian Habib-trained Soft Falling Rain gelding Zeus.
It was his second ride on Sandringham Summit and he steered him to a three length win in the Gr 2 TAB Gauteng Guineas.
He said, “The work he showed me this time around compared to last time was two different horses. His workouts last time were quite flat. In the workouts this time I had a lot of horse uinderneath me and I arrived at the races on Saturday very confident.”
The first time he rode the superstar colt nothing went right and they had to settle for third at odds of 1/3 in the Gr 2 Jonsson Workwear Dingaans over the same course and distance.
The pressure was on Gavin on Saturday as there was money for William Iron Arm and Sandringham Summit drifted from 9/10 out to 5/4.
The Gimmthegreenlight colt than appeared to take a fair hold in the running.
Gavin confirmed, “He did take a bit of a hold. He hadn’t run for ten weeks and it wasn’t easy to work him on the Turffontein tracks because they’be been wet for a month. We had him quite sharp, but I think he will be perfect in the SA Classic.”
Gavin said the Gimmethegreenlight colt would enjoy the 1800m trip of the Classic “without a doubt”.
His dam Townsend by Captain Al won the Gr 2 Odessa Stud Championship over 1400m and the Listed Stormsvlei Mile, but finished unplaced in her only attempt beyond a mile in the Gr 1 Paddock Stakes. However, finishing just 5,80 lengths behind Mother Russia in that race in a field that also contained the horse who won the Met next time out, River Jetez, was no disgrace.
Gavin described the stride of Sandringham Summit, “He’s not the biggest of horses, but he has a massive stride. He’s got a leopard like stride, he just covers so much ground when he throws his legs out. “
He said Sandringham Summit would rank as up with the best horses he had ridden.
Gavin recorded an amazing feat on Saturday with Zeus, because this horse has had ten career wins and he has been aboard on every one of those occasions.
He confirmed, “It is a special partnership.”
He revealed, “He is not an easy horse to ride, but I think once he gets your trust he gives you everything.”
He explained, “He went through a terrible stage where he just wanted to over-race, but he is a confident horse now and is enjoying his racing.”
Zeus has won his last five starts over staying trips by a combined margin of 18,75 lengths.
Asked whether he thought he was the best stayer in the country, Gavin replied, “For sure, yes.”
Big owner Laurence Wernars has first call on Gavin, but thereafter he can pick and choose his rides.
He is building a partnership with the Johan Janse van Vuuren-trained Wernars-owned Puerto Manzano, on whom he won the Gr 2 Allied Steelrode Onamission Charity Mile.
He said, “I hope he comes back to his best. He ran a nice fourth in a Pinnacle on Saturday (over 1400m beaten by Unzen, Dave The King and Cousin Casey). He is a good horse.”
He is also bullish about the prospects of the Janse van Vuuren-trained Time Fo Orchids, who has impressed in her last two spint starts and risen to a 96 merit rating.
He said, “She’s still got a way to go, but she’s had two convincing wins, she’s enjoying herself and thriving on the Highveld.”
Another horse he rode recently whom he rates is the Tony Rivalland-trained King Of THe Gauls, whom he rode in the Gold Rush over 1600m.
Gavin said, “When he matures I think he is going to be a top sprinter.”
He is also the regular rider of the crack Corne Spies-trained Rafeef gelding William Robertson and said he did not travel well for him throughout the race at Hollywoodbets Scottsville on Sunday when he was weighted to win easily. He still had hope late in the race, because he thought the longshot Captain Bombshell would come back to him, but it did not happen.