Dynasty’s magnificent grey daughter Bela-Bela galloped her way into our hearts and the history books when coming from a seemingly hopeless position to swoop for a scintillating victory in the R1 million Gr1 Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes at Kenilworth on Saturday.
Grey horses have an unfair advantage – especially if they can run – and the response from the crowd when Equus champion Bela-Bela cantered down was matched by the roar that accompanied her storming late victory surge from some lengths back. South Africa’s top weight-for-age race for fillies and mares demands a subtle mix of speed and stamina and attracted a quality field. It was also to be yet another contest on a magnificent day that looked likely to be dominated by just a few. With Bela-Bela ahead 2-1 in her clashes with 2015 Cape Fillies Guineas winner Silver Mountain, the stage was set for a titanic duel. And racegoers were not to be disappointed.
Off a muddling pace set by KZN visitor Sail, Anton Marcus had Bela-Bela some ten lengths back in the early stages and things looked bleak at the 400m as Safe Harbour and Silver Mountain got first run on her. Bela-Bela found herself directly behind Silver Mountain as the Bass-Robinson filly turned on the power. Marcus was forced to switch his mount out in a ground-costing move that underscored the merit of her win. With seven of them across the length of the course at the 250m it was anybody’s race, with Lanzerac Ready To Run winner Safe Harbour under a hard ride but holding a marginal advantage. In an impressive display of class and stamina, Bela-Bela lifted like the top-class athlete we know she is and got up hard against the outside rail to beat Safe Harbour by 0,40 lengths in a time of 111,51 secs.
Silver Mountain had looked dangerous late but weakened and was a length further back in third. Her stablemate Nightingale made up plenty of ground to secure fourth, a further 0,75 lengths back, to shade the gallant Star Express. Anton Marcus confirmed that the race was not run at a ‘Gr1 pace’. “We had a few anxious moments but the good ones get themselves out of trouble. I had my eye on Silver Mountain all the way. The second filly (Safe Harbour) is one of the top 3yos in country. In the end Bela-Bela’s class and stamina told,” said Marcus, who enjoyed a memorable day.
Varsfontein’s Susan Rowett was thrilled and thanked the winning breeders, Cheveley Stud. “My father won this race with Indira in 1970 and she became a foundation mare of Varsfontein,” she said.
Justin Snaith said that Bela-Bela had no luck when the July weights had been manipulated and things worked against the 3yo’s. “The process allows that and I’m all for it. But it worked against our plans for Bela-Bela. But she has bounced back strongly and even though one prep run coming into this was not ideal, she is just so classy and so good, she overcame the obstacles. She is a horse that people follow and this was a quality field, so yes I was very quiet while watching the race,” he laughed in response to a question.
Bela-Bela has a racing track record out of the top drawer and she became her champion sire Dynasty’s ninth individual Gr1 winner when clinching the Gr1 Woolavington 2000 last season. She has won 6 races with 1 place from 9 starts and stakes of R1 811 875. Bred by Cheveley Stud, she was purchased by Varsfontein Stud at the National 2yo sale for R1,4 million. Dynasty’s daughter hails from an outstanding winning female line. She is out of the prolific winner producing Royal Academy mare, Mystic Spring, whose champion sire, a Breeders Cup Mile winner, left behind no fewer than 167 stakes winner. Mystic Spring’s dam, Secret Sunday, was a full sister to Mystiko – who gave Michael Roberts his first British classic when winning the 1991 English 2000 Guineas. Mystic Spring’s best runner was ill-fated champion Rabiya, who tragically suffered a fatal break down in the running of the 2005 Durban July. Before his untimely death, Rabiya had won over R1 million, and landed both the Gr1 Cape Guineas and Gr2 Cape Derby, as well as Gr1 Daily News 2200. Secret of Victoria won four features, including the Cape’s two graded sprint races for fillies – the Gr2 Sceptre Stakes and Gr2 Southern Cross Stakes.
Important strategic decisions now have to be made about Bela-Bela’s next engagement on 28 January. Will it be the Sun Met over 2000m or the Majorca Stakes over a mile? We’d bank on the former.
– Sporting Post