He looked left, and then he looked right. But jockey JP van der Merwe didn’t need to worry about anyone catching him as he guided Smart Call to the winning post in the J&B Met on the weekend.
By the time the filly and her jockey had hit the line for the 2 000m affair at Kenilworth there was daylight between them and the rest of the field. She hadn’t just beaten some of the best horses in the country, she’d obliterated them.
The official winning margin was three and a half lengths with race favourite Legal Eagle staying on fro second while Captain America and Light the Lights produced late runs to finish third and fourth respectively.
As the race unfolded it was Piere Strydom aboard Legislate who went out and set the pace with Legal Eagle and jockey Anton Marcus sitting just behind and then Smart Call tucked away behind the pair.
Once they swung for home Strydom tried to skip clear but was reeled in by Legal Eagle, winner of the Queen’s Plate earlier in the month, and it looked like the favourite would oblige before Van der Merwe pushed the button on his mount.
“She came out well and got over quite nicely to sit behind Anton and Legal Eagle who was the right horse to follow. At the 300m I pulled out and this follow showed them what she’s made of,” he said afterwards.
It wasn’t until Saturday morning that Van der Merwe knew he would be donning the famous black and yellow silks that once belonged to the Oppenheimer family and are now used by their granddaughter Jessica Slack.
Regular jockey Weighing Marwing, who won the Paddock Stakes at the same venue aboard the filly at the beginning of the month, had failed to recover from injury in time to take the ride and a replacement was only named on the morning of the race.
“I knew she was a good filly but I had no idea she was this good. I’m blown away. It definitely doesn’t feel real,” Slack said in the immediate aftermath while trainer Alec Laird admitted his surprise in the manner in which his inmate won.
“It’s a wonderful moment. It’s beyond my expectation. I was hoping to win but not as well as that,” he said.