Second bite at English cherry
Seers, soothsayers and theological harbingers are emerging from wooden hangouts to cry that the Second Coming of Christ is upon us. This is because the civil war in Syria has started to look uncannily like certain descriptive passages in Christian and Muslim texts that foretell the return of Jesus.
Typically, horse-racing folk don't have time to ponder the Second Coming as they are too busy figuring out what's likely to come first in the second race at Fairview (the favourite, Norvic, stands out in a wretched field today, by the way).
So, you could say the Second Coming bothers them less than coming second.
And coming second has lately been much in the thoughts of South Africa's most eminent racing practitioner, trainer Mike de Kock.
The Randjesfontein maestro has been giving the British flat racing season a fuller go than usual this year, saddling up his brightest stars in some of the poshest races.
While he has flown the SA flag with honour, he's fallen short of winning a really big one on several occasions.
Super sprinter Shea Shea was narrowly beaten into second place in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot; then ran fourth in the July Cup at Newmarket; then was second again in the Nunthorpe on the Knavesmire last week.
Soft Falling Rain, unbeaten in South Africa and Dubai, made his British debut in mid-month in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury and ran, yes, second.
The Apache was shipped from De Kock's Abingdon Place yard at Newmarket to the US for Chicago's Arlington Million. The game colt flashed past the post in first place and we started celebrating a break in the champion trainer's run of seconds.
But hang on. The objection hooter sounded, the US stewards considered evidence of our hero bumping and hampering the second-placed horse in the finish and decided to demote The Apache to . you've got it, second.
If we're bewildered by the slew of seconds, it must be pointed out that De Kock has notched up one graded-race victory in England so far - in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes with a horse called David Livingston.
This fellow was passed on from Aidan O'Brien's Bally- doyle operation and isn't the first hand-me-down horse from those eminent Irish stables to do well for De Kock.
Archipenko won Hong Kong's QEII Cup and Eagle Mountain the Hong Kong Cup, both Grade 1 contests.
Now we hear that Mars - a colt that was sixth in this year's Epsom Derby, less than four lengths behind winner Ruler Of The World after cornering last - has switched from O'Brien to De Kock.
A syndicate including SA luminaries Mary Slack, Larry Nestadt and Bernard Kantor has bought a majority share, but breeding empire Coolmore has, tellingly, retained a share.
Might it be a second coming for Mars? Or should that be from Mars? It's time to consult the prophets.
Vaal, tomorrow: PA - 1 x 1,2,9 x 3,4,5 x 2,10 x 5 x 2,3 x 1,6,7 (R108)