Picture: Pocket Power powers to another victory under Bernard Fayd’Herbe
The legendary Pocket Power at this time back in 2011 was being readied to equal a world record by winning the same Gr 1 race, the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, for a fifth time in succession.
Alas, the Mike Bass-trained superstar gelding was beaten 4,25 lengths into fourth place by the favourite for the race, the Mike de Kock-trained Mother Russia, whose influence is still being felt through her unbeaten three-year-old granddaughter Gimme A Nother.
Pocket Power went on to have a fifth crack at the Met and could only manage 8th place.
He was eight-years-old and had earned a deserved retirement.
The Zandvliet Stud-bred Jet Master gelding won 20 races in 46 starts, included nine Grade 1s, three Grade 2s and three Grade 3s.
His Grade 1s included the two record breaking feats of winning the Queen’s Plate four times in succession and the J&B Met three times in succession, all at Kenilworth. His other Grade 1s were the Vodacom Durban July at Greyville and the Gold Challenge at Clairwood.
He also won the Grade 2 Green Point Stakes three times and was the first horse to ever win Kenilworth’s Winter Triple Crown.
His first win was in his fourth start on 15 November 2005 over 1600m at Kenilworth and co-incidentally he was ridden that day by Gerrit Schlechter, who won the Met on Past Master in Pocket’s last appearance.
Pocket was the king of Kenilworth and subsequent to his maiden win he remained undefeated around the turn at that course until he was beaten into third place by his full-sister River Jetez in the 2010 Met.
He had an unbeaten ten race streak over the Kenilworth 1600m, which ended in the 2011 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.
He earned R25,000 in the Met in his last race and that left him about R32,000 short of R10 million in earnings.
He only failed to earn a cheque twice, in a Maiden Plate over 1400m in November 2005 and then almost five years later in the 2010 July.
Pocket Power had a massive stride, but became infamous for his “flat spot”. He took a long time to wind up into top gear, but his devastating kick, usually at roundabout the 200m mark, will always be part of his legend.
He usually idled when in front but with his huge stride he was very difficult to pass.
In fact in the 2010 Met River Jetez became the first horse to ever overtake him in the straight.
Pocket Power had his detractors, who felt the new weight conditions of the Met made it easier for him whilst his career also co-incided with many of SA’s top older horses racing overseas.
However, in his prime he won with contempt and none of his detractors at the time could name an overseas horse from South Africa that would have been able to beat him.
In a fitting tribute in his last day at the races Pocket Power cantered past the cheering crowd before the last race adorned with a garland of red flowers with his regular jockey Bernard Fayd’herbe aboard in the famous Marsh Shirtliff blue, white and pink silks.
Most of the connections stood on the fashion stage and waved to the great horse.
It was a highly emotional moment and the tears flowed freely among them.
His connections include owners Marsh Shirtliff and Arthur and Rina Webber; trainer Mike Bass, his wife Carol, his son and marketing manager Mark and daughter and assistant trainer Candice Robinson; assistant trainers Robert Fayd’hebe, Trevor Taylor, Juan Nel and Betina Bonhage; Pocket’s regular workrider Belinda Haytread; his farrier Greg Dabbs; his groom BoyBoy Jevu; and Shirtliff’s girlfriend Dr. Karin Norman.
Carol Bass remarked later that in a country like Australia Pocket Power would have been an absolute hero, but in South Africa, which does not have the same horseracing culture, tributes such as these are reserved for a handful of horses such as Sea Cottage, Horse Chestnut and just a few others.
Therefore the connections were highly appreciative of the gesture by Gold Circle.
Mark Bass commented that the saddest part for him was that Pocket came out raring to go as if he was about to race.
Mike Bass opted to retire Pocket Power to Belinda Haytread’s smallholding in Constantia as he had many quirks and it took a person who knew him to be able to work with him.
Among his quirks was that he spooked very easily, he requireds a lead when he went to work or into the parade ring (he even needed one for his farewell canter) and he backpedalled when something was worrying him.
Bernard Fayd’herbe hads to coax him forward with a clump of grass before mounting him at home otherwise he became difficult.
He famously never entered the winner’s enclosure and this stemmed from his first win when he clearly disliked the foreign surface.
He would also never enter his box at home until he himself was ready to do so.
He mellowed as he aged and had a playful nature in his last days at the Bass yard, mock-biting his attendants and visitors. He used to hate the attention of too many people, but appeared to have become fairly tolerant of photographers. However, he never enjoyed being fussed over.
Pocket Power’s biggest love, besides his groom BoyBoy Jevu, was food.
He never left an oat even in the night after a race.
Pocket Power’s courage was reflected in his ultra consistent record, but was magnified when considering he had very soft feet, which bruised easily, specifically the inner corn of his near fore.
His feet were treated with rubberised concussion pads, but Mike Bass and his team must still take enormous credit for taking him to such heights considering this problem.
Pocket Power was the only horse during his career who was consistently known outside of racing circles.
He was synonymous with big races as well as rumours before big races regarding the well-being of himself and his infamous feet.
He had a massive following in Australia, who got live feeds of many of his races.
Pocket Power ended up becoming best friends with another Bass yard July winner, Marinaresco, whom he shared a paddock with at Hemel ‘N Aarrde Stud.
He passed away a day before his 19th birthday on July 31, 2021.