Picture : Main Defender comes home lonely in the Gr 2 Betway Jo’Burg Spring Challenge (JC Photos)
The Tony Peter-trained Pathfork gelding Main Defender had the option of winning the Johannesburg leg of the BSA Sales Cup to add to his Durban leg, but opted instead to run in the more lucrative R550,000 Gr 2 Betway Joburg Spring Challenge and the decision paid dividends as he came home lonely.
Main Defender beat the Sean Tarry-trained 118-rated Gr 1 winner Thunder Struck by 6,50 lengths on weight for age terms.
The race will have posed an interesting question for the handicappers.
In 2020 the Mike de Kock-trained Australian-bred Mount Pleasant won this race by a length from the Sean Tarry-trained hard-knocking 127-rated Gr 1 performer Cirillo.
The handicapper reacted by awarding Mount Pleasant, who had faced Cirillo on weight for age terms, with a 127 merit rating, a massive 15 point raise from his previous 112.
De Kock did not disagree with the raise on that occasion, but the horse did become problematic and extremely disappointing. He has in fact only won one more race and is currently rated 81.
So what will they give Main Defender?
Thunderstruck’s best performances have been over sprints, but he did beat last year’s winner of this race, the 121-rated William Robertson, who finished fourth, by three lengths on Saturday. Thunderstruck also had the like of Gr 1 winner Anfield’s Rocket (rated 120) and hard-knocking Gr 1 performer Dave The King (rated 126) well beaten, suggesting he was not compromised by the trip of 1450m.
If Thunderstruck is used as the line horse, Main Defender might be given as much as a 131 merit rating.
Main Defender’s win was particularly exciting for Highveld fans because he was comfortably beaten by another Highveld horse, the David Nieuwenhuizen-trained Sandringham Summit, at the end of last season in the Gr 1 HKJC Moment Of The Day Champion Stakes over 1600m.
There is also the Sean Tarry-trained Gr 1 winner Lucky Lad, who defeated Sandringham Summit on debut and who has only been defeated once, to look forward to.
Both Sandringham Summit and Lucky Lad are by champion sire Gimmethegreenlight.
The strength of three-year-old crop usually comes chiefly from Cape Town, but nothing of extraordinary note has emerged from there yet, although the Justin Snaith-trained Trippi colt Hluhluwe strikes as a progressive sort who could become a classic contender.
Meanwhile, in KZN, the Frank Robinson-trained pair Sovereign State (Visionaire) and Mexican Pete (Master Of My Fate) strike as classic contenders.