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Rose can pick ’em: War of Athena is shining

War of Athena. Photo: Supplied

War of Athena. Photo: Supplied

Published Jun 1, 2021


DURBAN - The Paul Matchett-trained War Of Athena landed her sixth Graded race in succession and second Grade 1 when pulling away from five classy rivals at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday in the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000 and she has in no uncertain terms vindicated the high marks owner Dr Rose Waterman-Wentzel gave her when first meeting her.

"I was at the Sale and I particularly looked at the Act Of War progeny. He was a brand-new stallion and I had just bought a lovely young Act Of War colt for my daughter and he will go overseas to the U.K. as her next ‘forever’ horse,“ said Dr Waterman-Wentzel has been around horses from the age of six.

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“When selecting a horse, after the conformation inspection, for me, it is all in the eye and finally, and most importantly, if the horse ‘speaks’ to me. If that happens, that horse is coming home with me. War Of Athena was coming home with me and that was the end of that."

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Rose and her husband Roy Wentzel had watched her breeze up gallop earlier and had liked that too, “her action was beautiful”.

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However, Rose's buying method for dressage and eventing competition has always been to view the horse and then wait and see whether there is any communication between herself and the horse. In War Of Athena's case their was.

The racing industry is in fact "brand new" to Rose but she has been involved in dressage and eventing her whole life and her daughter Major Waterman, was short-listed to be a a member of the British dressage team at the Olympics but sadly her horse developed a problem with his foot and had to be withdrawn.

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Roy has been a racing fan for decades and was a prominent owner in Zimbabwe for some 30 years where his horses were trained in Harare by Paul Matchett.

He had been out of the game for about 15 years when receiving a phone call from his son suggesting it was time his colours were seen in the winner's enclosure again. He met Rose during this period in the racing wilderness.

Roy's son duly bought him a horse called Senor Lizard for Roy’s birthday. Senor Lizard, selected by Paul Matchett, went on to win three races.

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"It was as I became involved in the racing world I decided to become a colour holder and owner, and so it began. We now have twenty horses, including 4 broodmares!”, Rose recalled.

One of the first horses Roy and Rose bought together was Twilight Moon. They bought this Wylie Hall colt for R20,000 at the BSA KZN Yearling Sale and after a Listed win, a Grade 3 win and a Grade 2 second for Matchett he was sold to Hong Kong for R2 milion.

Rose's eye for and affinity with horses must be one of the keys to the couple's eyecatching pink and black colours becoming such a familiar sight in the winner's enclosure.

Another current Act Of War three-year-old who must have spoken to her at the Sales is the Matchett-trained Battle Force. He has won five of his last six starts and is one of the favourites for Saturday's Grade 1 Golden Horse Sprint. He was purchased by the Wentzels at the KZN Yearling Sale for R130,000.

War Of Athena faced her sternest test on Saturday as she was up against a strong representative of Cape three-year-old form, Princess Calla. She beat the latter as a two-year-old in the Grade 1 Thekwini Stakes but Princess Calla was having only her second start in that race and has since won a Grade 2 and a Grade 3, placed second in the Grade 1 WSB Cape Fillies Guineas, third in the Grade 1 Cartier Paddock Stakes and fifth in the Cape Town Met.

Princess Calla had plenty of supporters and they had a moment of hope when she moved up strongly in the straight after War Of Athena's trusty stablemate Only The Brave, also owned by Roy and Rose, had set no more than a steady pace. However, War Of Athena still had plenty in the tank. She treated Princess Calla's challenge with contempt and drew away from her in effortless fashion to win by 2,10 lengths.

The small filly will now be attempting to emulate the great Igugu by winning the Triple Tiara, the Woolavington and the Vodacom Durban July in one season. To add to the parallel between these two horses, both of them were bought at the Emperor's Palace Ready To Run Sale and to date War Of Athena's only defeat in her official sophomore season has been in the race attached to that Sale, the Emperor's Palace Ready To Run Cup, and that race was where Igugu suffered the only defeat of her career in South Africa.

The stark difference between the pair is purchase price, Igugu, a daughter of Galileo, fetching R1 million and War Of Athena going for a paltry R30,000, testament to Rose's equine instinct and Roy's racing knowledge, a lethal combination.

Muzi Yeni faces a Vodacom Durban July riding choice that will make him the envy of every jockey in the country. He is attached to both the 7/2 joint-favourite Got The Greenlight and to the now roundabout 7-1 shot War Of Athena.

The Wentzels will be hoping he stays aboard their filly as they will have a headache trying to find a jockey of Yeni's calibre who is able to ride at 52kg.

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