Category Archives: South Africa

Big Race Preview: Durban July 2018

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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.

Selection:
10pts win – Made To Conquer @ 9/1 Sky

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Featherweight Seattle Swing Worth a Punt

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1.35 Fairview: MR 84 Handicap, 2000m

Muzi Yeni has a sensational record riding for du Plessis, so Oh So Modus must rate a massive chance. The four year old already is a course and distance winner too and proved himself to be in fine form lately.

You don’t have to look far for dangers though. Another four year old gelding, the Justin Snaith trained Galao has been running extremely well, having been placed or won in all his last four starts.

The eight year old veteran Money Grubber is probably in the grip of the handicapper at the moment, however can’t be taken lightly as this is his trip.

However I take a chance with the only three year old in the race, Seattle Swing. Still rather lightly raced, he may be able to improve for what he has shown so far. He won over 1600m on yielding ground last season, followed later by an impressive success here on the polytrack over 2.200m. Off only 52kg I see a chance of him being extremely well in, though only if he can take another step forward  given this is a tougher race than those he contested in before.

Seattle Swing @ 10/1 Coral – 5pts Win

Fairview: Top Weight is Value

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11.50 Fairview: Pinnacle Stakes, 1000m

An open looking contest where class horse Copper Parade is a fair measure stick given he was placed in a Grade 2 lately. He is two from four starts over this course and distance, so is very well respected and sure to run a big race.

Late bloomer Blizzard Belle seems to be the main danger. Bidding for a four-timer today, the five year old has excelled over the minimum trip in recent weeks achieving a career best in December when landing a MR86 Handicap off top weight.

The three year old Oriental Tiger is an intriguing contender. Lightly raced and showing some potential, he could have still more to offer. He’s coming as a fresh horse into the race, is badly out off the weights, but probably hasn’t shown his true form yet. With Domeyer up he’s got to be respected.

Cauclair is a great little money spinner and can be competitive after winning his latest race two weeks ago, though the drop to the minimum trip is not ideal and he might be beaten for speed by quicker sorts at this downhill sprint track.

The highest rated horse in the field is The West Is Wide. He might be slightly flattered by his current rating off 106 as he was disappointing in his last three starts. However he loves this trip and is a course winner as well. He’s well weighted to go close if he can find back something of his best. Dropping down to 1.000m can only be a help and Agrella booked for the ride is a big bonus.

Summary: It’s fair to say that Copper Parade is the horse to beat after his runner-up effort in Grade 2 company. His win record isn’t the best lately though. He’s a fair price in a competitive little affair but the value lies with the top rated The West Is Wide. If rejuvenated by the return to this track and trip he could easily outrun his price tag.

The West Is Wide @ 10/1 VC – 5pts Win

Sunday Greyville Tips

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2.15 Greyville: Mr 86 Handicap, 1.200m

With the scratching of Highway Explorer and Piano Man this Handicap is decimated by two of the more likelier sorts where now only three horses can be realistically have a chance to win, as long as they run to their true form.

The three year old Cutting Edge has an edge in the weights and should strip fitter today after a fine comeback run in December. He’s the highest rated individual in this race and with Delpech on board will be a major player.

That says I’m keen on De Kock’s Jayyed today. He’s coming off a half year long break, however seems best as a fresh horse and won a maiden plate last year after a similar lay-off over this 1.200m trip. The switch to polytrack should suit perfectly on pedigree, and after having to face top class opposition in graded company in all his last starts, this represents a much easier task.

There is the chance the run is only to sharpen him up and bigger targets may be ahead, over further distances as well. But with a talented apprentice on board who takes off valuable 2.5kg I feel Jayyed must have a serious say in the closing stages, as long as he doesn’t miss the break, something he did a couple of times last year.

Jayyed @ 11/2 VC – 5pts Win

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2.50 Greyville: MR 74 Handicap, 1000m

Favourite Hooponopono is way to short in my mind. He’s consistent but has to prove he’s capable of winning off his current rating.

A better alternative seems the one year younger All True Man, who has to some extend a similar profile, but is a much bigger price. If you forgive ATM his last performance which was too bad to be true, then you see an ultra consistent runner who is one from one over course and distance and who’s been knocking on the door in similar races lately.

Going from pole position today combined with the handy 2.5kg apprentice allowance of Tristan Godden could give him the edge in this contest.

All True Man @ 11/2 VC – 5pts Win

Speed Limit exceeded at Kenilworth

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3.55 Kenilworth: MR 85, 1.600m

An open enough looking contest, though you have to give the advantage to the three year olds, given they receive and handful of weight and are seemingly more talented than the majority of older horses in this contest.

The two top rated older horses Mountain Master and Waiting For Rain are dropping in the ratings though and if they run up to their best have excellent chances to feature.

However the 91 rated 3yo colt Fifty Cents is very much favoured to take the step up in trip in his strides. He’s a fair chance on pedigree and seemed to stay 1.400m thoroughly the last time.

I very much like the other three year Speed Limit, though, who has already won over course and distance and stayed 1.60om very strongly when getting off the mark in a maiden the last time.

His opening mark off 83 is stiff enough, but Speed Limit has the assistance of top drawer Anthony Delpech today. That in itself seems a vote of confidence. At 7/1 he is the value in the race in my mind.

Speed Limit @ 7/1 William Hill – 5pts Winner

Preview: 2016 Queen’s Plate

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Fasten your seatbelt – the 2016 Queen’s Plate will take you for a ride! It’s gonna be fast and furious! South Africa’s best milers; no hiding place as they’re all there to land the big price!

Last years brilliant winner Futura, currently the highest rated horse in the country, is trading as the favourite at this point in time. That doesn’t come a shock, given Futura seems well in himself after an excellent prep run in the Green Point Stakes.

He finished second behind eventual winner Captain America that day, who himself will have a good crack at it today. The son of of Captain Al used to be headstrong and keen earlier in his career, but wiser and more settled now, he’s become a proper Grade 1 horse. He’s likely to attempt to make all.

The outcome of the race could very much evolve around 2014 Durban July winner Legislate. The former horse of the year had a troubled 2015 season, but is reportedly in good shape at the moment. His record as a fresh horse is notably strong and talent wise he’s probably the best horse in South Africa; he has the speed to be a world-class miler, plus the stamina to stay and win over the demanding July trip.

Last years Derby winner Legal Eagle can’t be taken lightly either, although he’s best suited to distances beyond 1.600m and his trainer didn’t make a secret of the fact that this race is a stepping stone towards the J&B Met. However Anton Marcus jumps on board, which is a significant move.

This comes a bit a surprise given that Marcus is also associated with another leading contender, Act Of War. It’s certainly not a vote of confidence in last seasons Cape Guineas winner. Future prospects may have to do with that, so could have the bad draw that AOF has to deal with today. From a similar unkind scenario he stayed on well in the Green Point the last time, though.

Not fully to be ruled out is Summer Cup winner Mister Sabina, who overcame a troubled passage in the big Grade 1. He’s better over further ,however, and may need this run. The Met is his main target.

Only one three year old tries to take on the best in class – Mike De Kock’s Noah From Goa has been a big surprise in recent weeks and month, improving dramatically from race to race. The Dingaans and Cape Guineas winner receives plenty of weight from the older rivals, however it usually is a tough task for three year olds a to be competitive in this type of race t this point of the year.

Prediction: There should be plenty of pace in the race given that a handful of runners want to be up with the speed. Expect Captain America to cross over from his wide draw pretty soon after the start. Legislate on his heels most likely, followed by Noah From Goah. That says Futura shouldn’t be too far off either.

The set-up of the race and the longer straight on the outer course could help those having to hope to feature from off the pace. Still, I expect the race to be won by those close to the speed. That means all the top contenders are likely to be in contention when it really matters and that should make for an exciting finish.

If Legislate is at his best, and he can be as a fresh horse with his record, he’s the winner and hard to beat. In my view, if Futura and Legislate are both 100%, the later one wins. But there are the questions marks about his soundness, given he was lame only three month ago.

So is it wise to go against Futura then? Maybe not, however he’s a short enough price given the competitiveness of this race. Yes, he won this making handstands last year, but value wise I can’t ignore the fact that he has to give 5kg to exiting three year old Noah From Goa.

De Kock supplemented the gelding for the race; you simply have to take notice then. Also he seems to grow fast. I liked the look of him at the Guineas, and his performance was superb that day, finding more once hitting the front. He looks more like a grinder, but that should be a perfect fit for the way I expect this race to be run. At 9/1 Noah From Goa is too big a price to ignore for me.

Noah From Goa @ 9/1 William Hill – 5pts Win

Vaal: Flag Of France a big price

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2.20 Vaal: MR 90 Handicap, 1000m

Intriguing contest, though it lost a bit of sparkle due to the non-runners. That’s why Bad Boy Buddy Boy is now clear favourite. Back at this track and on turf he should be a force but has to bounce back from a poor last outing on the All-Weather and has to prove he is up to his current mark.

I feel the value in this race is clearly Flag Of France. Readily available at 6/1, he is a huge price against the favourite given he loves this track and trip and is 2 wins from 4 starts over CD. He has decent form and will love the return to the minimum trip, which will give him every chance to overcome a career highest mark.

Flag Of France @ 6/1 Betfred – 5pts Win