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Spies manages Anger expertly as Emerald catches his eye

The outcome of Saturday’s Grade 3 August Stakes over 1200m at the Vaal proved once again that, when it comes to the sand track, follow horses with proven form at the course.

There was talk for Midnight Run, Foyle and Global Express but when the dust settled it was Anger, Isobar and stalwart Across The Ice who filled the first three places.

Anger, from the Corne Spies yard, has always been seen as something of an enigma in that he is loaded with talent, but had not won beyond 1000m and had a reputation which made Dennis The Menace look like an angel.

The connections clearly had seen improvement in all aspects as the Brazilian-bred son of Elusive Quality was well supported from an opening call of 10-1 to start a 5-1 favourite in an open race.

He had won all of his last four races and was a two-time winner on the Vaal sand.

It came as no surprise when jockey Francois Naude took him to the front as he was well drawn at No 4 and carried just 52.5kg. In any case, this is his style of running and it was just a question of whether he would keep it up over the final 200m. So when Isobar and S’manga Khumalo pulled alongside with some 300m to run and then hit the front it looked as if the Weiho Marwing-trained runner had the race in the bag.

But a glance over at Naude indicated there was still quite a bit left in the tank as he had not moved a muscle in anger.

“I know him quite well,” said Naude. “We sussed him out a bit and the manner he wants to be ridden. You actually just got to ride him so confidently. It’s like he must be OVER confident. Once that other horse joined me, I knew there was still something left in the tank.”

With 150m to go Naude pressed the trigger. “When I asked him and really squeezed him, he came back and I think he won a brilliant race.”

Isobar went down 1.50 lengths with another six lengths back to Across The Ice. Sean Tarry’s gelding had the widest of draws and was well back in the early stages. Piere Strydom got him to the inside rail but he was too far back on a day in which the conditions suited frontrunners.  Fourth place went to Midnight Run, who was up with pace for some 800m but then faded to finish seven lengths behind the winner. He could improve on the surface with the experience but there is a question as to whether he will stay the 1450m of the R1-million Emerald Cup to be run on Saturday 27 September.

Naude believes Anger will be a “huge runner” in the Emerald Cup but is hoping the horse will come in with a light weight “so I can retain the ride”.  However, as this was a Grade 3 race the handicappers are not restricted by the maximum of 4kg rule that applies to non-graded or events.

Spies, who always has a smile on his face, was beaming more than usual after the victory. “It was heart-stopping, but it couldn’t have worked out better. We’ve been preaching for a long time that this horse has got it but he went wrong after his first run.

“Now he is back and has won five in a row, including two features – if you can call the Flamingo Park race a feature. This win gives him a ticket into the Emerald Cup and let’s hope he can do the big league. I thought it was an excellent ride from Fransie.”

Isobar ran well enough in second to be given a chance in the Emerald Cup. Last year Weiho Marwing won the August Stakes with Here Comes Billy but he failed in the Emerald Cup. Possibly the second place in the August Stakes could translate into an Emerald Cup victory.

The other feature on the day was the Non-Black Type Sandy Beach Stakes and went to Sarasota, ridden by Strydom. Favourite Flame Cat and Margot On Stage looked to be fighting out the finish but Strydom brought the Lucky Houdalakis-trained runner from off the pace to run down Margot On Stage and Flame Cat to win by 1.50 lengths.