Joao Moreira is the mosthighly regarded jockey in the world right now and even he would have been over the moon to have the day 20-year-old Callan Murray experienced at Turffontein on Saturday.
Murray, who only completed his apprenticeship in January, came away from Champions Day with three Grade 1 victories, including the R4-million Premier’s Champions Challenge over 2000m.
“I’m speechless,” said Murray after 25-1 shot Deo Juvente squeezed through a tight gap to down 8-10 favourite Legal Eagle and claim the Champions Challenge.
That really tells the tale as the usually ebullient Murray is rarely at a loss for words. He started the run with victory on Mustaaqeem for the Mike de Kock stable in the Grade 1 SA Nursery over 1160m. That was not much of a surprise as the Australian- bred son of Redoute’s Choice went off at 1-1.
He then doubled up in the Computaform Sprint when Rafeef, a full brother to Mustaaqeem, burst away from the field to beat a fastfinishing Talktothestars by 1.30 lengths with favourite Carry On Alice in third. Rafeef went off at 7-1 but De Kock was always bullish about the chances of his charge. Rafeef stopped the clock in 55.95 sec.
It is arguably the first time two full brothers have won Grade 1 races on the same day. Both are the out of SA super sprinter National Colour who has turned into a super mare.
One can argue Murray had the firepower under him with those two races but the victory of Deo Juvente was a superb ride from Murray. The Geoff Woodruff trained runner, owned, like Legal Eagle, by Mayfair Speculators also demonstrated how some horses get along with specific jockeys.
The last time this son of Trippi won a race was in November 2015,the Grade 2 Victory Moon Handicap over 1800m at Turffontein. It was also the last time Murray had ridden him.
That was a special moment for the then apprentice who scored his first Grade 2 win that day.
“Callan had been coming to the stables regularly to work him and he was confident Deo would run well,” said Woodruff.
“We were scheming how we could win the race because we didn’t feel we had a shout against Legal Eagle. But I just felt maybe his vulnerability was that he didn’t quite see out the 2000m – which you can’t really say and it’s not a really fair thing to say. But I think his rating is more accurate over a mile than over 2000, let’s put it that way!
“We used the Pinnacle race as a come-on run last time but while I was mildly disappointed with the run Callan said he was confident, so well done to him!”
It was also a bittersweet moment for Woodruff as he dedicated the win to his mother who had passed away on Friday night. Murray said he had woken up on Saturday morning at 4.30am even though he didn’t have to leave for work until 6am. “I couldn’t sleep. I had a feeling about the day. Deo Juvente was working so well. He was at the best I had ever felt him to be.”
Nominee for Mayfair Speculators Derek Brugman said at that stage he did not know what the problem, if any, Legal Eagle may had but was full of praise for Deo Juvente. “I thought he was unlucky when he was just touched off in the Summer Cup by Master Sabina so I feel he deserved a Grade 1 win. Where he goes now depends on what the handicappers do to him.
Nother Russia once again ran her heart out in finishing third, beaten just 0.20 lengths. She once again proved her level of talent and although jockey Craig Zackey was naturally disappointed to have got so close, only to get beaten, at the weights it was a magnificent effort.
The Grade 1 Murray did not win was the R2-million SA Derby but on the day Al Sahem was too good. “This is the first time I’vehad him at the level he needed to be,” said trainer Sean Tarry, who warned everybody the son of Silvanowould be far better this time.
“Unfortunately people don’t want to listen when you’re running against an odds-on favourite,” he added. Jockey Anthony Delpech said the race panned out superbly for him. “He likes to have things his own way and I had nobody in front of me so when they slowed it up around the bend I was able to get him close up without any trouble.
“Once we hit the front in the straight I knew it would take a good horse to pass me.”
Heavenly Blue probably didn’t see out the distance although he did spread a shoe in running and that may have had some sort of impact. “I should have put him against Legal Eagle,” said De Kock straight after the Derby and probably regretted that decision more after the Champions Challenge was run.
There is now a likely change in plan for the Australian-bred colt.“We will probably go for the Daily News at Greyville and take it from there,” he added.
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