It’s as predictable as night and day, “lose a stallion and you lose a champion”. Last week, Await The Dawn’s daughter, Pilgrim’s Progress made it three-on-the-trot, eliciting the approval of commentator, Alistair Cohen who rates her a serious “Oaks” prospect. While that’s encouragement enough for the ill-fated stallion’s first crop at this stage of his career, his numbers are replete with stand-outs across the length and breadth of the sub-continent, from Kenya to Zimbabwe, Turffontein to Table Bay.
Anyone at the “Big T” on Saturday would’ve had no illusions about the truth of the adage: Big Bear made sure of that with a pulsating performance in the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup, putting to bed two of the nation’s highest rated three year old colts and a Group One winning filly, to deliver its eighth victory in eleven renewals of one of the country’s richest prizes to the KZN nursery, Summerhill.
Let’s face it, the “Cup” has a long tradition of outstanding athletes among its laureates, yet it was the universal view of the sporting press that this line-up ranked as the race’s best advertisement in years. Time will be the test of that statement, but for now the race will be remembered not only for what Big Bear beat on Saturday, but for the manner in which he dismembered it.
Remember, less than a month ago, Wonderwall earned his 107 rating on the back of a knockout blow against older horses in the Graded Spring Stakes on the self-same course, while in his most recent start, Purple Diamond had put away the cream of the nation’s juveniles in the Group One Golden Horseshoe on July day. Brave Mary earned her status as the highest-rated juvenile of the past season by some four pounds when she accounted for a quality field in the Group One Alan Robertson Fillies Championship (Gr.1), while Surcharge was coming off a “three-timer” for Stuart Pettigrew and he was not alone among those with claims to the best form on the Highveld.
“Contemptuous” is an overplayed word in sport these days, but nobody would’ve needed any persuasion of its appropriateness in describing the devastation Big Bear wrought on his foes on the weekend. Granted, there were some with excuses, particularly those with adverse draws, but with the best part of five lengths separating the winner from a horse of Wonderwall’s class, there can be little argument about who rules the roost on the Rand right now.
As we’ve already said, the R240 000 Sean Tarry acquisition Big Bear is from the first of one- and-a-half crops of the world-rated racehorse, Await The Dawn, and he’s out of a daughter of South Africa’s top broodmare sire of all time, Northern Guest, from a deep Aga Khan family embracing the immortals Nasrullah, Royal Charger and Kalamoun, as well as some of the planet’s most famous broodmares, Lady Josephine, Mumtaz Mahal and Mumtaz Begum.
In the end though, for the Midlands farm the day was more than a celebration of Big Bear’s triumph: from a catalogue of more than 250 entries, the stud was represented by five other candidates at the starting gate, among them the R40 000 buy “Brave” Mary, who was exactly that in the replication of her Group One form of last season in second place, while the De Kock-trained daughter of Visionaire, Takingthepeace, produced almost as good a kick from the tail of the field as Big Bear did, to get up for the Summerhill trifecta at the expense of Wonderwall.
Bloodstock Manager of the Midlands-based farm, Tarryn Liebenberg, while lamenting the significance of Await the Dawn’s loss, was characteristically upbeat about the future.
“Hope- springs-eternal in racing, and we can’t help believing from what we’ve seen on the ground already, that there’s a ready replacement in the first youngsters of the triple Group One racehorse, Capetown Noir”, while the valleys around Mooi River and Nottingham Road are full of the music of the Group One aces Willow Magic and Act Of War’s first foals.