SA CLASSIC DAY
Turffontein, 30 March 2013
Such is the allure of the money on offer in Dubai this weekend and the reverence surrounding a man of Mike de Kock’s stature, that the staging of eight Group races (three Group Ones) in Jo’burg this weekend, has all but been forgotten. Yet Turffontein hosts an assembly of some of South Africa’s top racehorses on Saturday, including a large proportion of the leading two and three-year-olds of the season.
It has to be said that outside of the dual Cape Guineas and Derby hero, Cape Town Noir, the form of the three-year-old colts has been muddling. The upside is that it makes for a good betting contest of the R2million S.A Classic (Gr.1), where 25% of the card (four of them) are graduates of the Summerhill ranks. All told, in the Group contests hold 13 entries with a taste of our pastures in their upbringings, including a lofty 5 horses (almost 40% of the field) engaged in the Man O’ War Sprint over 1100m.
Reverting to the Classic, the Gauteng Guineas ace, Tellina, seems to be most scribes’ idea of the likely winner and some are already touting him as a prospective Triple Crown celebrant. We’re not sure that his credentials stand out quite that far though, given that the first five across the line in the Guineas were all within a length of one another. It’s true, he was doing his best work at the finish and certainly going better than anything else in the field at that stage, which suggests the longer they go, the better he’ll get. Yet any race which concludes in a “blanket” finish can see its form turned inside out the next time the adversaries find themselves in the same contest again.
That said, Tellina has the pedigree and the progressive look of an animal with a big shout, and the rest have him to beat him if they want to turn the tables. The obvious claimants, particularly with the added distance, are Mike de Kock’s Alexander Palace, who trots out under the purple and pink hoops of Mark Yong’s T’Men Stables; Fantastic Mr Fox, whose form was hard to fault before he fluffed his lines in the Guineas (likewise Francois Bernardus), and the Summerhill quartet of Love Struck, (a Stakes winner over the distance on his penultimate start in Cape Town), Killua Castle (just a half-length off the favourite in the Guineas), Gitiano, whose collateral form makes him a possibility; and “Buffalo” Bill Burnard’s talented No Worries, who was just a length off the Guineas pace a fortnight after being gelded. If the “kindest cut” is what he needed, expect him to move up on that run, particularly as he’s now over a trip which his pedigree suggests might suit him better, though a tough draw might again prove a factor.
The fillies’ equivalent, the SA Fillies Classic (Gr.1) is much more of a closed contest. In fact, Bridget Oppenheimer’s Cherry On Top, masterfully handled by the veteran Ormond Ferraris, has been so dominant of the generation to date, you simply can’t oppose her. There are some handy fillies in the line-up, but nothing approaching this one; she doesn’t only stand-out on what she’s achieved so far, she’s a spectacular physical presence in the parade ring, and richly deserves her spot at the top of the boards. After her, the race is up for grabs, and those who fancy themselves as students of form will be looking for the clues that distinguish a horse likely to benefit by the added furlong.
If there is any chink in Cherry On Top’s armour, it may rest here, in the stamina arena, and the only way they’ll find that out is by examining her thoroughly. Ultimately, that will depend on whether she has inherited her father’s or mother’s aptitude. Most of the Tiger Ridges have shown a preference for the shorter journey’s to date, but she comes from an old Oppenheimer family replete with stamina, and with Fort Wood as her broodmare sire and the way she finished off the Guineas, we think she’ll relish the added test. No doubt, the connections of Do You Remember, King’s Temptress, Fire Wheel and Orator’s Daughter will have their own hopes, while Charles Laird is known to rate the potential of the Summerhill Sales graduate, Dylan’s Promise, especially as the distances stretch out. That said, he believes she’ll be at her best during the KwaZulu-Natal season in a couple of months time.
Our man Emperor Augustus, has a mountain to climb in the Horse Chestnut Stakes (Gr.1), where he bumps the formidable Slumdogmillionaire; if “Slumdog” hasn’t suffered too much from the after-effects of his journey to Cape Town for the J&B Met, he should be unassailable at the finish. This is a below-par Group One assembly, and the favourite should get home, even if he runs a little sub-par.
Obviously intriguing for those of us who reside on this fine spread just outside this dusty little dorp in the Midlands, is the Man O’ War Sprint, where the home-grown Cookie Monster, Strongmind, The Disciple, Stavinsky and the sublime victress of the Nkosazana Stakes at the Vaal on Tuesday, Rebel Queen, have Charles Laird’s Contador to overcome if they have any aspirations of occupying the Number One box. Outside of Rebel Queen, whose participation must be in doubt after her spectacular effort on Tuesday, the others have the look of decent sorts without suggesting they are in with a winning chance over 1100 metres at this stage of their careers. With another furlong under their belts, we’d be counting both Cookie Monster and Strongmind as live prospects, but at this trip, Contador looks home and hosed.
As we said yesterday, only Saturday afternoon will tell us. Either way, racing fans are in for a bumper, as you get the Dubai World Cup as well as this fascinating line-up simultaneously on Channel 239.