Dennis Schwarz was in fine form at Turffontein Standside on Wednesday night, riding a treble, and is all smiles after winning the Non-Black Type Egoli Mile on the Lucky Houdalakis-trained Laguna Verde (JC Photos).
Laguna Verde was the subject of whispers before the Grade 1 Premiers Champion Stakes last year but put in a disappointing finish and jockey Craig Zackey’s comments post-race gave the impression that the horse’s mind was elsewhere.
However, gelding saw him continuing to disappoint in his first three starts as a three-year-old.
This prompted Lucky Houdalakis to put the blinkers on for tonight’s Egoli Mile and it did the trick.
Also in his favour was a drop in the merit ratings to 98 for this race, which was his first start in a handicap.
He did still have to carry topweight though of 60,5kg in the three-year-old Non-Black Type feature, so it was a good performance.
Houdalakis trains out of the Vaal, where the tracks have no clay underneath them so drain better and this might have helped Laguna Verde get a fitness edge over the Johannesburg-based horses, whose work has been interrupted by the heavy recent rains.
The Clifton Stud-bred Gimmethegreenlight gelding jumped from draw two and was given a fine ride by Dennis Scwarz, who rode a treble at the meeting.
Schwarz got him on to the rail within striking distance. He travelled well with the blinkers on and in the straight showed the fine turn of foot he had shown in the Grade 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe when coming from last to finish just 2,30 lengths back in fourth despite being carried out.
He wandered across to join the other protagonist Silver Hills and despite giving this progressive well-bred Silvano filly 5,5kg he kept her at bay to win by 0,25 lengths. The third-placed horse, KZN raider Captainofthegreen, was beaten 5,75 lengths.
interestingly, Billy Spellbound, who was beaten only 5,70 lengths in the level weights Gold Rush, was beaten into fourth tonight by 6,10 lengths despite receiving 6,5kg from Laguna Verde.
That points to it being a fine performance by Laguna Verde and the blinkers-strike will be going back into a number of black books.
Houdalakis did not mention the blinkers in the post-race interview, but said rather he might have asked too much of him as a two-year-old and he mentioned he had taken a bad knock in his penultimate start in the Graham Beck and had returned “crippled”, so the first aim was “to heal him” … he was subsequently happy with his comeback run last time out.
He feels 1800m to 2000m races might be the way to program the bay gelding in the near future.
Owner Dave Shawe was on course to cheer Laguna Verde home.