Captain America takes the salute at Greyville Challenge

Trainer Brett Crawford is having the winter of his life and the dream may not have ended at Greyville on Saturday when Captain America powered home in the R1m, Grade 1 WFA Rising Sun Gold Challenge (1600m).

Crawford saddled the winners of both the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 and the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000 last weekend. Captain America’s victory took him to three Grade 1 victories in the space of just two weeks and he has the R4.25m, Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July (2200m) on the horizon at Greyville on July 1st.

Captain America is an accomplished miler and in the absence of his nemesis Legal Eagle, who had his measure in both the Grade 1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes last term and the Grade 1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate in January, he made short work of a high-class field on Saturday.

“When he quickens he gets a good couple of lengths on his field,” said regular pilot Corne Orffer. “He’s a very honest horse.”

Always handy from a wide draw, Captain America quickened up the inside rail in a matter of strides and had the race in the bag crossing the subway. Trip To Heaven and Bela-Bela chased hard in the minor placings but the winner was never seriously challenged.

Captain America and Corne Orffer come down the rails, picture Nikosi Hlophe

Trip To Heaven, denied in the stewards room last year and a notoriously slow starter, ran true to form missing the break by a good couple of lengths but rattling home for second.

The filly Bela-Bela was also doing her best work late. Justin Snaith was more than happy with the showing of his filly but confirmed that she will not be taking her chances in the Vodacom Durban July.

“Garden Province” he said, adding that, “Unfortunately we will have to take on Just Sensual.”

Just Sensual an hour earlier had run out a comfortable winner of the R400,000, Grade 2 Tibouchina Stakes (1400m)

“A pity she’s not in the July,” Snaith added wryly.

The disappointment of the race was favourite Marinaresco who was up with the pace for much of the race but failed to fire and finished with just one behind him.

The result of the R250,000, Grade 3 Cup Trial (1800m) will have given the July selection panel further headaches although winner Elusive Silva did cement his place in the line-up with a courageous victory over Crowd Pleaser and stable companion Black Arthur.

A touch worrying was the way Elusive Silva had his head turned to the side and drifting in under pressure before being straightened by Richard Fourie, but he did enough to get up on the line to collar pacemaker Crowd Pleaser.

“He ran green and was hanging in,” commented Snaith. “He is a big strong horse and was always going to quicken even though they didn’t go a good pace.”

Snaith was batting for third-placed Black Arthur, close to the top of the betting boards for the Vodacom Durban July, but until yesterday not certain of a place.

“You do not want to leave it this late,” he said. “But you cannot leave him out.”

Anthony Delpech, aboard Black Arthur, was up-beat. “I thought I was going to win it. He just lacked that little bit at the end. This was his second run after a long lay-off and he ran a great race.”

Crowd Pleaser did everything but win it. Keagan de Melo dictated the pace to a nicety on the instruction of Johan Janse van Vuuren and although giving the winner 4.5kg he was only collared one jump from the line. Master Switch, Nebula and Trophy Wife may well have seen their chances of making the July field out of the window.

Cape Fillies Guineas winner Just Sensual sharpened her pencil for the Grade 1 Garden Province Stakes (1600m) at the Durban July meeting with a cracking win in the Tibouchina Stakes, although Anton Marcus was not altogether impressed with the performance of Joey Ramsden’s filly.

“Halfway up the straight I gave her one and she shot away, but having said that I was a little disappointed. I thought that she would win a little easier than that. But she’s ready for the Garden Province. In the end I’m just happy to have a winner,” he said.

Second-placed Nightingale finished best of the rest with Anna Pavlova running on nicely up the inside fence for third.

Just Sensual and Anton Marcus, picture Nikosi Hlophe

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