Industry Press

Houdalakis Eyes Grade 1 Sprint For Mr Flood

Lucky Houdalakis claimed a Graded success on Saturday with the sales chuck out Mr Flood and race fans are now wondering whether the Vaal-based trainer is at the helm of another impossible fairytale as he is eyeing the Grade 1 Computaform Sprint, The Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Sprint and the Grade 1 Mercury Sprint for the athletic bay.

Houdalakis is also looking forward to feature campaigns for the like of Wisteria Walk, Seville Orange, All At Once and Set The Standard.

Houdalakis recalled his first encounter with Mr Flood at Bloodstock South Africa’s Cape Yearling Sale in March 2017, “I liked him but was pe-occupied and missed him going through the ring. When I learnt he had gone through without a single bid I approached the breeder, ‘Willempie’ Engelbrecht, who wanted R100,000 for him but I bargained him down to R50,000. He now calls me a horse thief but as long as I can carry on getting them for that price I will carry on stealing!”

Mr Flood’s dam by Jallad won three times over 1200m and the son of Pathfork had soon proved himself a useful sprinter, winning three of his first five starts, all over 1200m.

However, he then had to undergo knee chip surgery.

On Saturday, in the Grade 3 Lebelo Sprint over 1000m at Turffontein, he was coming off a layoff of close to 14 months.

Nevertheless, his earlier form read very well.

As a young three-year-old in October last year he beat the classy Mardi Gras by 2,70 lengths despite facing him on 1,5kg terms worse than weight for age and followed up in November by beating the useful Wonderwall by 3,70 lengths despite facing him on 4kg terms worse than weight for age.

He duly started 13/2 third favourite on Saturday in the 14 horse field.

He broke well and led but looked likely to be swamped at the 300m mark as both Winter Storm and Orovar headed him.

However, astonishingly for one coming back from such a long layoff, he fought back and won cosily in the end by 0,75 lengths under Marco van Rensburg.

Houdalakis said, “It was very impressive as he had not done much coming into the race.”

Houdalakis, although hoping for a decent race, had been more concerned beforehand about Mr Flood pulling up well.

He has pulled up “very well” and he said, “Now we can look forward.”

Houdalakis pulled off one of the greatest training feats in South African history when winning the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint with another sales “steal”, J J The Jet Plane, nine years ago.

However, it is too early to make a comparison and he said, “You can’t just make a champion … horses improve to become champions. Winning the Lebelo Sprint doesn’t make you a champion.”

Mr Flood is owned by Keith Waterston.

Houdalakis can’t afford pedigreed horses and his sales approach is instead to look for good specimens and then hope he can afford them.

Another one who is doing well against the odds is Set The Standard.

Houdalakis said, “He was a Hartley SA-bred horse and when Peter Gibson said he was sending him to me I didn’t want him, as I didn’t like the Linngari’s. But I ended up taking him and put a partnership together and he has now won two out of four and looks like he will be something.”

Wisteria Walk, a three-year-old Vercingetorix filly, was bought for R350,000 at the CTS April Yearling Sale. She won her first two starts over 1200m before just failing to beat one of the proven best of her crop, Mill Queen, in the Grade 3 HSH Princess Charlene Starling Stakes over 1400m. Wisteria Walk had some good horses behind her there and followed up with a fine third behind the classy older horses Ronnie’s Candy and In The Dance in the Grade 2 Ipi Tombe takes over 1600m.

Wisteria Walk runs in the Grade 3 Three Troikas Stakes over 1400m at Turffontein Standside on Saturday and will then go for the R5 million CTS 1600.

Houdalakis wants to avoid a clash between Mr Flood and his useful four-year-old sprinting filly All At Once, whose four wins to date include the Listed Swallow Stakes. His long term aim for All At Once, who is by Captain Al, is the Grade 2 Camellia Stakes.

He will stick to staying races with Seville Orange, although he said he would in that case be forced to race her against males.

Copy: Gold Circle, David Thiselton