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There were pre-race doubts about Return Flight’s stamina, as she appeared to be labouring when winning the Fillies Classic over 1800m. Vindicating the high opinion of her held by trainer Sean Tarry and owner Chris van Niekerk, Return Flight blew all the doubters away with a brilliant win in the Gr2 Wilgerbosdrift SA Oaks over 2450m at Turffontein on Saturday.

The same silks were carried to victory on this race day some years ago, when her sire Pomodoro won the SA Derby. Of course, Pomodoro also famously won the Durban July under Piere Strydom – the jockey in charge of Saturday’s heroine.

Well-performed Blossom started as the 22-10 favourite, with a mission to deliver an 11th Oaks trophy to veteran trainer Ormond Ferraris. Return Flight was next on offer at 3-1.

Return Flight got a flyer of a start and Strydom found himself at the head of affairs – where he didn’t want to be as, he confessed later, he wasn’t sure of the filly’s stamina over the classic marathon.

With the first 100m taken at a crawl, Craig Zackey decided to inject some pace with Seville Orange and pulled the field along the back stretch. Strydom tucked in behind, while Blossom brought up the rear – though no more than 10 lengths covered the whole field.

At the top of the straight, Return Flight eased back into the lead, kept finding extra and set out after the big prize, with rivals chasing.

The winning margin was 1.80 lengths and Return Flight finished like a very good stayer indeed. Blossom was far from disgraced in second, while Seville Orange held on for third, ahead of a promising-looking Bize.

Delighted owner, Chris van Niekerk, said he felt a ‘pang of guilt’ every time reference was made to the R20 000 he paid for her at the CTS 2017 March Yearling Sale.

Return Flight was bred by Mike Sharkey and was bred from the four-time winner Heading Home (Special Preview).

She has won three Gr1’s in her 5 wins with 4 places from 10 starts and took her career earnings to R1 898 475. She is set to take on rivals from around the country in the KZN Champions Season.