By David Thiselton
A look at the post-racing careers of Vodacom Durban July winners from the deadheat of 2008 onwards.
Pocket Power had a showjumping career after his racing days were over and was retired from all sports about five years ago. He was then sent to David Hepburn-Brown’s Hemel ‘N Aarde Stud.
About three months ago another Vodacom Durban July winner, Marinaresco, joined him in his paddock and they have become good friends. Not many studs can boast of boarding two Vodacom Durban July winners. Both horses had the same trainer and same owner.
Pocket Power was officially trained by Mike Bass, assisted by his daughter Candice Bass-Robinson, and Marinaresco when winning the July was officially trained by Candice, although Mike, in the first year of his retirement, was still very much involved with the yard.
Both horses ran in the familiar pink, white and blue silks of one of South African horseracing’s most popular patrons, Marsh Shirtliff. The Bass yard workrider Belinda Haytread took care of and rode Pocket Power during his showjumping career. He reached the 90cm jump class but, not surprisingly, it was his infamously unsound foot which ended his sporting career. Belinda said, “He just started feeling uncomfortable on landing and I knew it was time to retire him.”
It was testament to the skills of one of South Africa’s greatest ever horseman, Mike Bass, that Pocket Power was able to win nine Grade 1s with this foot problem, including a record four L’Ormarins Queen’s Plates, three J&B Mets, one Vodacom Durban July and one Rising Sun Gold Challenge. Pocket Power was not only a great racehorse but a great character too.
His most famous quirks were his dislike of parading in front of the grandstand, his refusal to enter the winner’s enclosure, his tendency to back up whenever encountering something he disliked, rushing into the starting stalls and, despite his tremendous will to win, he liked to have a lead when going to track in the mornings.
He also spooked at the slightest disturbance.
Belinda said he continued to have his quirks during his time on her small holding near the Constantia forest. She said, “To him the most dangerous things in the forest were the squirrels!”
“Pocket” was a star attraction at shows and whenever it was his turn to jump the crowd around the arena would expand. Belinda said, “He always received a lot of applause after he had finished his round
and responded by leaping up and showing off!”
There was always something magnetic about this magnificent thoroughbred, who was from the first crop of the seven-times SA Champion stallion Jet Master. His lead foot stretched far closer to the horizontal than the average horse, giving him a huge stride. In fact when he dead-heated in the Vodacom Durban July he would have been declared the winner if hooves had been taken into account!
He used to let himself so far down that when working on the far side of a stable companion his head could be seen beneath the other horse’s neck. His finishing effort in races was unusual in that he had two points of acceleration, an initial quickening at the top of the straight, followed by what jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe described as a “hovering” phase, and then a devastating final kick which usually happened about 200m from home.
Pocket Power fully deserves his comfortable retirement and receives regular visitors, including his doting friend Bernard Fayd’herbe, who went to see him two weeks ago. He rushes to see Bernard but this might also be due to the sight of his favourite snack, carrots!
Pocket Power’s Vodacom Durban July deadheat can be watched below: