In the absence of trainer Brett Crawford, who was on a trip to France, assistant trainer Barry Donnelly furnished a promising pre-race report about Front and Centre, who started at even money for Saturday’s Gr3 Diana Stakes over 1400m, and ran to expectations.
As a result of Donnelly’s confidence, and her exceptional record coming into the race, she was a popular banker in punters’ exotic perms. They had to sweat for a while, but Front and Centre delivered after looking a beaten filly, and won easing down.
“I had the run of the race,” said jockey Greg Cheyne. “When we turned into the straight I had to muscle myself out and then I started doing pace work on her.
With Helen’s Ideal sticking gamely to her lead and Freedom Charter running on well, Front and Centre suddenly found a brilliant finishing effort from a two lengths off the call, and going into the dying stages.
Cheyne added: “When the challenges came I got to work on her, she tended to hang out, but when Freedom Charter came up on our outside I gave her a bit more of a squeeze and she kicked on very nicely.
“This is just the beginning of her prep for the summer season, but Brett (Crawford, trainer) didn’t want to run her if she couldn’t win. It’s a privilege to have sat on her.”
Ross Kieswetter, representing Front and Centre’s breeders, Ridgemont/Highlands, commented: “This was quite a race for my nerves. I thought she was in trouble, I heard Freedom Charter’s connections shouting, but our filly won. She has a sweet spot in our hearts.”
Donnelly said: “Front and Centre put up a good gallop last week, this wasn’t her mission, just a stepping stone. Well done to all!”
Front and Centre is five from 9 with stakes of R1,320,625 to her name. She was a R300,000 purchase at the Cape Premier Yearling Sale.