South Africa’s most prestigious race intrigues year after year with a a massive field size including at least two handful of runners you can all see playing their part in the outcome of the race. A tricky contest to work out and one where favourites have a hard time.
The winner paid 17/1 or bigger the last three editions alone, and the last two years no single figure priced horses even made it into the money. Tactics pay an important part but the pace angle is one that used to gather little traction in the discussions leading up to the big race in the past, I feel.
Different this time. It’s the discussion topic number one. A muddling affair is feared. That will make life tough for those who come from behind naturally or those who end up in rear due to their wide draw.
It also poses a difficult decision for those jockey sitting on horses who need a proper stamina test but who are drawn wide or who wouldn’t naturally like to be too close to the pace.
Either way, the hot favourite African Night Sky from the powerful Justin Snaith yard may well be the most talented individual in the race but is clearly a price to forget. He stays the trip and had an excellent preparation, however his tendency to miss the break on occasions plus the need to be dropped in will make life incredibly tough for the four-year old gelding.
My eyes are firmly set on his stable mate Made To Conquer, instead. What can go wrong with a name like that?! In seriousness, this supremely talented son of Dynasty has been coming through the ranks, improving bit by bit while showing excellent desire combined with the ability to change gear.
Made To Conquer has been winning four on the trot. Albeit largely in much lower grade. The progressive gelding took his time, though since September last year he won six of his seven starts and showed a step up in class to graded company isn’t a problem when landing the Grade 3 Stirrup Cup off a big weight. Officially only a head between himself and multiple Stakes winner Strathdon, Made To Conquer held the stable mate under a hands and heels ride rather easily.
A step up to the highest level is only the right consequence. Made To Conquer is a staying type. He already won over 2.500 meters. So, dropping down to the 2.200 meters in the July is a slight question mark, particularly in the light of the predicted pace.
That says, despite a wider than ideal draw, it is likely that Jeff Lloyd will make plenty of use of the featherweight and the stamina his mount possesses and march forward early on to be close enough to the pace and take it up if needed. This is as much as he said himself: he ain’t gonna sit around.
If he holds true to this then Made To Conquer will surely be in the right position – which nearly always in the July is closer to the pace than too far off. Lloyd can send him on his way hitting top gear entering the home straight confidently knowing the gelding will stay all day long and clearly relishes having a fight on hands too.
For Jeff Lloyd it would bring an incredibly career in the saddle to a fairytaile ending. The 56 year old has never won the July despite being a six-times South African champion jockey. It’s going to be one last hurray before retirement beckons right after.
10pts win – Made To Conquer @ 9/1 Sky
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