where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2023-01-09 13:47:12  
Charles Dickens Got Beaten, so what?

Not exactly the headline the punters wanted to read but the writing was on the wall and so was the marketing spin. The Charles Dickens Story has a way to go but for this weekend, he was sadly beaten and beaten by many factors. It isn't the end for him, just the beginning. Let's dive in.

Cape Racing needed a darling and they found one. To go with their brand new image, seemingly endless funds and game plan (thanks largely to an innovative bookmaker), they found a horse too. Touted to be the best in the land, even the handicappers gave him a high rating (128), he was the darling waiting to be crowned at Kenilworth on Saturday afternoon amongst the pale blue and white sea of colour. They found the messiah - with great expectations Charles Dickens arrived, but then he didn't.

The occasion was massive; built and sold as a premier event, it was the horse's owners race, the newly named King's Plate was sponsored by the owner of Charles Dickens. The Bass Robinson runner just had to run to win, but racing has made fools of more than one can count. It was going to be his 5th run of the season in what looked an easy preparation for the big mile race. Against top level milers, a dual Queen's Plate winner, a July winner, a Gold Challenge winner, it was no gimme race but not according to the punters. At 2/9 the punters believed the hype, the marketing, the stories, romantic as they sounded, that this was the next Horse Chestnut or Sea Cottage. Yes, comparing him to a horse that won the Met by the distance of Long Street and one that won a July with a bullet lodged in his behind, was to many, fair comparison. Even the 'knowledgable' scribes in racing placed these names on record, roaming the archives for suitable comparisons pre-race. It was fools gold.

By all accounts the deathly hush post race made Kenilworth more of a crime scene than a victory parade. Victory it was, for the talented Ricky Maingard and his charge Al Muthana. A horse and trainer with huge credentials, both had proven their mettle at the highest level. Maingard of Wolf Power fame, a horse who won this race in 1984 and Al Muthana (by the highly rated Australian stallion Deep Field), himself a Grade 1 winner of arguably South Africa's premier Mile contest, the Gold Challenge just last year, had come to play. And play they did.

Charles Dickens had been acting strange going down to the start and came back equally disappointingly albeit it, beaten by a head. He just should not have been beaten at all. He was meant to be a good few lengths better than anything here. Charles Dickens did have two stars behind him, in Kommetdieding and Jet Dark, once rated the 4th best horse in the world (as silly as that was at time). He also had Linebacker and Golden Ducat well beaten. Both were Grade 1 winners themselves.

Not to be written off, Charles Dickens can take a leaf out of the Variety Club playbook. The Champion from 2013 ran second in this race as a 3 year old and won the Gold Chellenge 6 months later, becoming the first 3 year old in 11 years to win that Kzn race. He then went onto Queen's Plate glory the next year before an historic overseas campaign.

As for Saturday, we salute the Champ, Al Muthana, struck 16 times (4 over the limit) with the whip to get to the line and a jockey who copped a R40k fine for that, he was still much the best and didn't look like he was stopping at the line either. Smart run, smart horse, smart trainer. Perfectly timed. Mauritius won with an Australian bred horse in Cape Town - some international story. 

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