One of the biggest race days of the South African racing calendar kicks off with the Cape Derby, which historically throws up some legendary winners. Last year it was Legislate, who moved on to win the Daily News and of course the Durban July, which in turn brought him the honour of becoming the 2014 horse of the year. Potentially we have a similar star on our hands in this years renewal, the question is only who is it? Checking the betting, this looks a one-horse race. But is it?
Well, Act Of War, currently trading a 1/5 favourite to land the Derby, looks certainly the real deal as he’s going for seven in a row today! The son of legendary sire Dynasty was only beaten on his racecourse debut, and then only by the narrowest of margins. Since then he never looked back, nicked in a couple of Graded races, with his biggest triumph to date, a decisive victory in the Cape Guineas. All those forms have also worked out very strongly, with plenty of subsequent winners. He looks right now a world class miler. Can he take this form to the next level over an additional two furlongs? That is the main question. Being a son of Dynasty surly helps, so he has enough stamina on his sire side for obvious reasons. Small doubts coming from his dam side though, with that line effectively never having anything produced over further than a mile. So far Act Of War looked special over trips ranging from 1.200m to 1.600m. He’ll be hard to beat if he’s taking well to the longer distance, that is for sure.
Realistically, there is only one real danger for Act Of War in this field , and that one is coming of course from Mike De Cock. His lightly raced Ertijaal is equally as exciting a colt as it gets. He had only three starts to date after having an injury troubled 2yo old career, and has been rather rushed to get here. He had three starts in the last two month, and one has to see how the takes this amount of racing. However he has been rapidly improving all the same.
He was far too good on debut and second start, winning by a culminating 16 lengths those two races. Stepping into Listed company earlier this month, he turned on things in the final furlong to get up on the line. He was always going to win once in full flight and finished this task nicely. He looked green an immature all the same though, and will have learned plenty. He’s a nice, scopy colt who has already proven his stamina over 2.000m and going back to this trip today, will be a bonus, since he is bred for middle-distance.
Verdict: It is not worth to look anywhere else, trying to find the winner of this race. The rest of the field should simply not be good enough and it would be a major surprise to see any of those go even close. It seems rather a lottery to determine who else could make the frame. So concentrating on the two fancied runners makes sense. That says I’m going to have a nibble on Ertijaal. Simply for the reason that he has plenty of improvement left in him on what is only his fourth start. With a steep learning curve, and a trip to suit perfectly, he should be a close match for hot favourite Act Of War, as long as he takes the recent starts well. That says, Act Of War looks a special horse and if he stays the trip, will not be beaten. But odder things have happened in racing than a proven star miler fading over the additional two furlongs.
Ertijaal @ 7/2 Ladbrokes – 5pts win