VAN Halen has a pedigree of true international significance, and his win in the Gr1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m at Greyville on Saturday had an international flavour.
Part-owners Freddie van Wyk (stuck in China due to travel restrictions) and Alfie Pawson (resident in Slovakia) were not on course to cheer him home, leaving that to Van Halen’s new part-owner Xander Spies, who led in his first Gr1 winner alongside his father, trainer Corne Spies.
Royal Meeting stamped himself as a high-class colt with victory over future dual 1,000 Guineas winner Hermosa in the Gr1 2018 Criterium International at Chantilly on just his second start to complete a perfect two-start juvenile season.
Van Halen’s dam, Rock Concert (Lecture), is 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 15-time winner Heavy Metal (Exceed and Excel), the winner of the Gr2 Godolphin Mile and several other stakes races in recent years.
Van Halen is a son of Avontuur’s stud’s resident star Oratorio (Danehill), and was purposefully bred on Heavy Metal’s Danehill x Lecture cross. This was Van Halen second career Gr1 win – he won the Gold Medallion as a two-year-old in 2018 from the subsequently exported Cue The Music, with future stakes winners Chimichuri Run, Cirillo and Twist of Fate behind him.
Van Halen’s had several very good runs since, including a close-up sixth in last year’s Mercury Sprint to Kasimir, when Spies had no doubt he would have won if not for interference, and a good win the Gr3 Man O’War Sprint.
On Saturday, ace jockey Craig Zackey got Van Halen (11-1) into third soon after the gates opened, racing well in contention from an inside draw after his customary lazy start, and knowing that Kasimir, Chimichuri Run and Russet Air (above him on the betting boards) would find it hard to match the early pace from poor draws.
Van Halen bounced into the space created by the false rail, shot into the lead and ran on well to win by 1.60 lengths from Warrior’s Rest and Fabian. He clocked 70s flat.
Xander Spies, emotional in the winner’s enclosure, praised the new Van Halen partnership, his grandfather Tobie and his father for their horsemanship. He’s a born horseman too, likes to get involved in the yard, but has been advised to make easier money as a lawyer and is in his first year as article clerk following his completion of a law degree. No wonder the guy speaks such good English!
Following a dissolution of his original owning partnership, Van Halen raced for the second time only in Freddie van Wyk’s purple-and-white silks, also sported by the speedy Pacific Trader when he won the 2019 Computaform Sprint for Brett Crawford.
“Freddie is the sprint king!” joked Corne Spies.
Spies said that a Cape programme this coming Summer won’t be on the cards for his five-year-old next, and that he’d be looking for weight-for-age races over 1400m and even up to a mile.
‘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 has won 7 of 24 career starts, earning R1,317,187. -Turf Talk.
Headline pic: Corne and Xander Spies with Van Halen (Craig Zackey). – Chase Liebenberg.