Louis The King Captures South Africa Classic

Geoff Woodruff-trained colt poised for run at nation's Triple Crown with latest win.

Louis The King is poised to become just the second horse to win South Africa's Triple Crown after he scored a workmanlike victory in the South Africa Classic (SAf-I) March 29 at Turffontein.

The mighty Horse Chestnut is the only other horse to have scored the treble.

Having scored previously in the first leg of the Triple Crown (sponsored by SASCOC), the Geoff Woodruff-trained Louis The King stands in line to earn a two million rand bonus should he triumph in the South Africa Derby (SAf-I), the final leg of the series. The Derby, run over 2,450 meters (about 1 1/2 miles), will be contested at Turffontein April 26.

Louis The King was sent off a hot 4-5 favorite for Saturday's 1,800-meter (about 1 1/8-mile) race, having previously scored a facile 5 1/4-length win in the Betting World Gauteng Guineas (SAf-II), the first jewel of the Triple Crown. Nothing was seriously backed to beat the colt, who had so dominated his rivals in the Guineas.

One of the pre-race standouts in the parade, Louis The King was settled well off the pace by his jockey, who has ridden the colt in four of his five outings to date.

The pace was set by As You Like , who led from his stablemate Mister Cricket and Bezanova. The front-runners were clear with 700 meters to go, but the favorite was traveling ominously well, and made a menacing move with 50 meter to run.

However, neither As You Like or Mister Cricket showed any signs of stopping, and jockey Robbie Fradd had to ask his mount a serious question, before Louis The King drew clear for a convincing, if somewhat workmanlike, victory by half a length. Mister Cricket just held on for second ahead of As You Like with Bouclette Top running on strongly for fourth place. The 2-3-4 finishers were all saddled by trainer Alec Laird, whose main contender, Forest Indigo, had been scratched from the Classic.

Louis The King has been an inspired buy for owner Louis Van der Vyver. The colt cost just 55,000 rand ($5,193 in U.S.funds) as a yearling, and has already taken his earnings to more than 2 million rand ($188,83), with the promise of more to come.

A winner of four of his five outings to date, Louis The King was bred by Cape stud, The Alchemy. A son of Irish Two Thousand Guineas ((Ire-I) winner Black Minnaloushe, who currently stands at Maine Chance Farms, he is the sole foal produced by deceased Rich Man's Gold mare Pamushana.

Louis The King, who was scoring his initial grade I success, also made it a memorable day for the trainer/jockey combination of Woodruff and Fradd, who also teamed up to win the Horse Chestnut Stakes (SAf-I) with Yorker. Veteran jockey Fradd, who is set to depart South Africa in order to pursue his career in Australia, was making his final race South Africa meeting prior to his departure.

Fradd said after the race, "He is a great horse, and is so laid-back. I am prepared to swim (from Australia) to come over to ride him in the Derby! I think he will be suited by the extra trip and he has a good turn of foot which really helped him today. I was always confident we would win."

Woodruff, whose charges have swept all before them this season, was less confident, admitting that "You could have picked me up off the floor during the race I was panicking! I am bullish about the Derby, and thanks to the people at home. This was a team effort."

The second grade ! feature at Turffontein on Saturday was the Wilgerbosdrift South Africa Fillies Classic,
the second leg of the Wilgerbosdrift-sponsored Triple Tiara for 3year-old fillies. Won just twice previously (by Igugu and Cherry On The Top, the Tiara will not be won in 2014, with Arcetri Pink, winner of the first leg of the series, only managing to finish fourth on Saturday.

The 1,800-meter race was won by Athina, who is owned and bred by race (and Triple Tiara) sponsor Mary Slack.

Winner of the Three Troika Stakes (SA-III) earlier in the season, there were stamina doubts surrounding Athina prior to Saturday's race, but a great ride from veteran jockey Kevin Shea helped the filly to a brave win.

The Joey Soma-trained Athina was well off the pace with 200 meters left to go, but Shea coaxed a tremendous turn of foot from his mount and managed to get Athina up in the shadow of the post to secure a narrow win.

Athina flew up to collar last season's Equus Champion 2-year-old filly Along Came Polly in a tight finish where less than one length separated the first four home.

Along Came Polly finished just in front of stablemates Not Sulking and Arcetri Pink, who had previously finished second and first respectively in the Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas (SAf-II). Race favorite Zephira could only finish fifth.

Athina is by former champion South African sire Fort Wood, sire of 2008 Fillies Classic winner Urabamba, and broodmare sire of last year's South Africa Fillies Classic winner Cherry On The Top.

South Africa's newest grade I-winning filly, who has won four of her 10 outings, is out of the winning Rich Man's Gold mare The Heiress, a half sister to South Africa Guineas winner Heir Apparent.