DAILY NEWS 2000 (Grade 1)
Greyville, Turf, 2000m
1 June 2013
There may have been an equal, but I cannot for the life of me, remember a more competitive renewal of the Daily News 2000 (Gr.1). There can be no better showcase for South African racing than a field boasting three Guineas winners, two Derby winners, six Group One aces, and with few exceptions, the principal adversaries in the same events who were simply unlucky enough to be born in the same year. For the Sheikh Mohammeds, the Barry Irwins and anyone else who likes to watch South African racing for potential plunder and international glory, there is no better place to fix your gaze than on Greyville this Saturday.
From a Summerhill perspective, no fewer than five of the contenders were bred and raised on the farm, headed up by the S.A. Classic (Gr.1) hero, Love Struck, the trio of hard-knocking Guineas place-finders, Corredor, Gitiano and No Worries, and the Cape Derby cheque earner, Patriotic Rebel. While there are punters who hold a brief for the argument that if you’re not already a Guineas, Derby or Classic winner in a line-up of this calibre, you’re not in the “swim”, the rate of improvement among three-year-olds is not always the same, particularly at this time of year, so maybe, it’s a case of “all can play, all can win”.
That said, you have to acknowledge the obvious claims of the first two in last month’s KZN Guineas (Gr.2), Mike de Kock’s unbeaten Vercingetorix, and Dean Kannemeyer’s drop-dead-beautiful Capetown Noir, who has looked every bit the “super horse”, only to reveal the odd chink in his armour under pressure. There are those who will tell you that whatever their claims, in Yorker, Geoff Woodruff has the best three-year-old in the land, and while he has yet to be tested in this kind of company, in his races, he’s looked every bit the demolition man going out to do a job, and let’s have no fuss.
Love Struck, Tellina and Wylie Hall carry the flag for Gauteng classic form this season, and its anybody’s guess where they rank with these three. On a line through Gothic (a narrow second to Wylie Hall in the S.A.Derby (Gr.1), and whom we know as a Summerhill Ready To Run Sales graduate, Wylie Hall seems more of a Derby prospect than a 2000 metre galloper, whilst Tellina, whose breeding suggests he should get further, has nonetheless been vulnerable beyond a mile, lurching inwards in the final furlongs of both the Classic (1800m) and the Derby (2450m). That leaves Love Struck, who’s laid his marker down wherever there’s been classic racing this season, taking in the KZN Guineas Trial, the Cape Guineas and the Politician Stakes, the Gauteng Guineas and a victory lap in the R2million S.A.Classic. Now he’s turned up at his home base for the Daily News. At best it’s an arduous ask, and he goes into Saturday’s race without the benefit of a prep, given a well-deserved rest after his earlier exertions. It’s not only the number of times a horse goes to the well, it’s where he does it; he’s been on the go since October, with a six length romp in the KZN Guineas Trial before leaving for the Cape, then having to climb to 6000 feet to claim the spoils in the Classic. There’s no questioning his gameness though; Paul Lafferty disclosed over dinner in Australia this week that the horse gave him a good five furlong sprint the other day, and while it’s anybody’s guess as to how fit he is, he came through it smiling.
This is by no means the end of the line though: Joey Ramsden speaks highly of Silvano’s Jet, Garth Puller claims that Corredor has improved again since the KZN Guineas, and with only two lengths and a bit to find on Vercingetorix and Capetown Noir on their Guineas form, if he gets the trip, the cards could be up in the air.
That’s not all. While the strength in depth is not quite the same, the Woolavington Stakes (Gr.1), the fillies equivalent, is just as epic in its own right. It brings together the hitherto unbeaten Triple Tiara heroine, Cherry On The Top, and the Majorca Stakes (Gr.1) victress, Blueridge Mountain, a clash of two of the best fillies we’ve seen in a decade. While Cherry On The Top is a homebred from Bridget Oppenheimer’s famous Mauritzfontein Stud, Blueridge Mountain is a R2million graduate of the Summerhill draft at the 2011 National Yearling Sale; the former a descendant of a time-honored local family, the latter an Argentinean-born daughter of the three-times champion sire of the United States, Giant’s Causeway. While their backgrounds couldn’t be more diverse, their paths to the Woolavington have converged as a consequence of their abiding class, and we’re looking at two fillies who could conceivably hold their own in the best company in the world. The one thing we know about Cherry On The Top is that under the tutelage of the master, Ormond Ferraris, she has already shown her mettle at the 2000 metre trip. Ramsden has nothing to prove when it comes to the handling of a top athlete, and while Blueridge Mountain’s pedigree, her physicals and her form suggest the distance should be within her reach, that question remains open. By 4:40 pm tomorrow, we’ll know the answer.
You don’t have to have a stake in either of these races to have your eyes on them: any racing fan with a modicum of respect for a good horse will be tuned into Channel 239 when the chips go down before the sun sets tomorrow evening.