Eric Sands says winning he big race at Rainbow Bridge for owning-and-breeding doyen Mike Rattray was more important than winning it for himself. Photo: Supplied
Eric Sands says winning he big race at Rainbow Bridge for owning-and-breeding doyen Mike Rattray was more important than winning it for himself. Photo: Supplied

Eric Sands wants to do it for Mike Rattray

By David Thiselton Time of article published Jun 30, 2021

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Eric Sands' only negative about Rainbow Bridge ahead of the Vodacom Durban July is the amount of weight he has to give all around and he said winning the big race for owning-and-breeding doyen Mike Rattray was more important than winning it for himself.

He said, "I think so many people feel the same way. Mr Rattray bought the horse to win the July. He stuck his neck out and none of us could have foreseen the Covid-19 situation with the stakes. It was a very wise buy in my opinion. It is very important for him to win it. He has a box overlooking the line and has won every big race in the country. What a way it will be to win the July this year. It will be a fairytale."

Rattray owns Rainbow Bridge together with his wife Norma and they will watch from home.

Sands is happy with the six-year-old Ideal World gelding's preparation, but was critical of the spacing of the feature race program this season.

He said, "This is the best preparation he has had. He is also calmer these days when he gets off the float although a lot of that has to do with there being no crowds."

Rainbow Bridge has been known to be headstrong in races in the past, but since being partnered by Luke Ferraris has relaxed well in the running before using his fine turn of foot to mow the opposition down in effortless fashion.

Sands said, "It is just a matter of how you ride him and the hands you have. If you are going to fight him, he will travel but if you have kind hands, he comes back to you. Luke suits him down to the ground. He has confidence in him, which is the biggest thing of all. For a jockey to have confidence in the horse's ability and his well-being is a big plus."

Sands spoke about last year's race and said, "We were in the right position ... he was following Golden Ducat one off the rail, but one horse began to fall back on Golden Ducat and he's a big striding horse so to stop clipping heels he had to move out. So, he took off and Rainbow followed him, so basically, no fault of the jockeys, they got there too soon."

It is well documented that Rainbow Bridge covered the first 2000m of that race in a time slightly quicker than the course record for 2000m, so ultimately went way too fast.

Sands said he and Ferraris had already discussed this year's race in detail and would do so again.

He said, "We will analyse where everybody is going to sit according to their history and their jockeys and draws and will take it from there."

Sands felt the handicappers had tried to "play catch up" after Got The Greenlight's win in the Premier's Champions Challenge and believed Joe Soma did the right thing to appeal. However, the successful appeal has left the five-time Grade 1 winner merit rated only 124, meaning Rainbow Bridge has to give him 5kg. He said Got The Greenlight's weight looks particularly advantageous when comparing him to Belgarion, who beat Got The Greenlight by just 0,75 lengths in last year's July on 1,5kg better terms than weight for age and now has to give him 3kg.

He didn't feel Rainbow Bridge had been unduly punished and said, "He is just at a disadvantage because he is so consistent."

Sands said about the spacing of the program, "It was six weeks from the IOS Drill Hall Stakes to the Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge and then three weeks to the July and they then want you to gallop the horse in between. He is not an easy horse to bring on the float, that is his biggest problem. He sweats a lot on the float and for any athlete losing that amount of fluids, electrolytes and saline has to take something out of you, so it is against the well-being of the horse. I don't see why he could not have just galloped at Summerveld. We're looking at the Johannesburg horses on a video link, why not the same down here? He is a public horse and is a fancied horse, you have to give him every opportunity. His second run after a layoff is always a little flat and last year the July was his second run but this year there was a six-week gap between his first and second runs. Is the July now going to be his second run? From his well-being point of view I think I can ignore that being the case, it is just that a four-and-a-half to a five week gap is a lovely gap, there is no second run after a layoff syndrome with that."

Rainbow Bridge is hosed down upon arriving on course and whenever he begins sweating up thereafter. He is also hosed down just before saddling so his wet appearance in the parade ring is partly sweat but mainly water.

Mike Rattray was given his first horse by his father as a three-year-old and went on to become a Springbok polo player. He also trained and rode a horse called Royal Dandy in Gymkhana racing events. He later became a Durban Turf Club chairman and then in the 1980s bought a sheep farm in Ceres and converted it into the highly successful thoroughbred stud farm, Lammerskraal, with the help of outstanding stud manager Sally Bruss nee Jordaan.

Rattray has had three seconds in the July, two with Lammerskraal home-breds Celtic Grove in 2001 and Yard-Arm in 2003, and one with Rainbow Bridge two years ago. His Lammerskraal home-bred Jagged Ice was beaten less than half-a-length into third in 2007. He also has the honour of having owned the only odds-on favourite in July history, Yard-Arm, who finished a disappointing fifth at a starting price of 8/10 in 2004.

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