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 International - South Africa

Hill Fifty Four achieves J & B Met win

Hill Fifty Four went one better than last year when winning the R2.5m Group 1 J & B Met (2000m) at Kenilworth on Saturday before a crowd of 36,500 after skilful planning by trainer Vaughan Marshall and tactical riding by Anton Marcus.

Jackson out of luck in J & B Met
Jackson out of luck in J & B Met Photo by Liesl King

The now five-year-old Captain Al gelding draw barrier 13 last year, and finished second to surprise winner Martial Eagle. This year he drew further out at 15 but Marshall and Marcus were not concerned with the wide draw and determined that a steady pace further out was the best course of action.

Marcus guided Hill Fifty Four Horseform across from the wide barrier and settled into the lead and from that point they were not headed. They dictate the pace to suit themselves with Marcus not wanting to get into a sprint.

Once they has swung into the main straight with nearly 600m to run Marcus guided Hill Fifty Four out to the middle of the track and they left the main pack on the outside rail trying to pick them up.

The well-regarded Jackson (14th) and Capetown Noir (7th) were not sighted with race favourite Master Of My Fate and Sean Cormack making progress but too late.

Hill Fifty Four (58kg) drifted back towards the rail but Marcus had achieved his aim of a solid pace and not giving the pack too much of a sight to level a chase at. While he said afterwards he was not confident of the win until the line they had a good margin of 13/4L.

Yorker (Jet Master) (60kg) and Robbie Fradd were second with Punta Arenas (Sivano) (58kg) and Grant van Niekerk third, the margin 1/4L. Whiteline Fever was fourth and Master Of Fever fifth.

The time was 2.03.93 on the Good track.

“I suspected the race might be devoid of pace so I just jumped out. I envisaged that I would be in the first quadrant and if he ended up in front it was not a problem,” said Marcus.

Marcus said that at Hill Fifty Four’s last race he was against the rails and he said that he could not get the horse out to make a run, hence the thought to go to the middle for clear racing room at their own pace.

“That was the plan to get him out (to the middle) and Vaughan and I discussed it,” he said.

Hill Fifty Four was bred and is raced by prominent South African’s owner and breeder Marcus Jooste in conjunction with Klawervlei Stud.

Derek Brugman, racing manager for Jooste, confirmed that apart from Hill Fifty Four’s second last year that Jooste had a further three seconds in the J & B Met.

“It is fantastic for Klawervlei and for us at Mayfair Speculators. It is a fantastic result and we have being dreaming of winning the J & B Met for years for as long as I have been involved with the team.” he said.

“Everything went according to plan. Obviously it was our mission after the disappointment of the Durban July (after Hill Fifty Four bled) and we planned his campaign and it worked out really well,” said Marshall.

“Every run he had in his comeback I was ecstatic with, and everything just went according to plan. He had never ever bled before and at that time quite a lot of horses bled in Natal over the July period.

“Horses that had had run 35 times and had never bled, suddenly bled, and I would like to say that it was just something in the air at the time. I had no doubt that we would get him right.

“Anton is a great rider from the front and we just had to take that chance,” he said.

Marshall said that he would attempt another Durban July campaign with Hill Fifty Four. He said that the international quarantine protocols for exporting horses from South Africa would preclude any thoughts of an international campaign with the time required to serve in quarantine too disruptive at Hill Fifty Four’s age.

It was a further triumph for Marshall as he trained Hill Fifty Four’s sire Captain Al to win the Cape Guineas and then trained the sire’s first winner, first feature race winner and now first J & B Met winner.

Hill Fifty Four, out of the Sportsworld mare Sports Dance, was fourth at his last start over 1800m behind Master Of My Fate at Kenilworth on January 18th. Saturday’s win was his seventh from 19 starts and with seven placings he has now earned stakes of R2.8 million.

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