Van Halen, who was bought for a mere R100,000 at the 2017 Cape Premier Yearling Sale, took his earnings to R1,317,187 with his seventh career win, that came in Saturday’s Gr1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m at Greyville. This was his second success at Gr1 level and he won from Warrior’s Rest, a graduate of the 2016 CTS Ready To Run Sale, clocking a time of 70s flat.
Jockey Craig Zackey was worried, pre-race, that Van Halen (11-1) would jump too slow to compete for a position in the early stages. He was a bit lazy off the mark again, but from pole position Zackey managed to get him into contention in third spot as they raced into the bend.
Van Halen was steered into the space created by the false rail and was given his head to get away briskly from the well-fancied Kasimir, Chimchuri Run and Russet Air, who were all drawn wide and battling to contend. He ran on well to win by 1.60 lengths, never in danger of being caught.
Spies said that a Cape programme this coming Summer won’t be on the cards for his five-year-old, and that he’d be looking for weight-for-age races over 1400m and even up to a mile.
“Van Halen will probably get a few points added to his MR122, so handicaps will not be an option. We also won’t be going to Cape Town with him. He disliked the undulations at Kenilworth when we took him there as a younger horse and just wasn’t himself.
‘We have limited options now, but on the way he runs, and wins, I think he’ll be well suited to 1400m so we’ll be looking for the best options at weight-for-age.”
Van Halen is a son of Avontuur Stud’s Oratorio and Rock Concert (Lecture), herself a full-sister to the high-quality Rock Opera, who was Champion Two-Year-Old in South Africa in 2005 when trained by Spies. Rock Opera also produced the European Gr1 winner Royal Meeting, who went to stud in Australia in June, and the 15-time winner Heavy Metal (Exceed and Excel), the winner of the Gr2 Godolphin Mile and several other stakes races in recent years.
Following a dissolution of his original owning partnership, Van Halen raced for the second time only for Freddie van Wyk, Alfie Pawson and Xander Spies, in Van Wyk’s purple and white silks. This was a first Gr1 winner for the young Spies. Van Wyk, meanwhile, won the 2019 Gr1 Computaform Sprint in the same silks with another CTS buy Pacific Trader, trained by Brett Crawford.