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

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

Preview: Champions Cup

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4.05 Greyville: Champions Cup (Grade 1), 1m 1f

Realistically a two horse race, South Africa’s two top drawers meet once again. The score is 3-1 in favour of Legislate. and the one time Futura got the better of him, was in the Queen’s Plate earlier this year when Legislate was not right as we know.

Legislate fought back form his illness, won the Gold Challenge on his return comfortably, beating Legislate in third, for whom it was merely a July prep run, though. Futura ran with loads of credit in the big one subsequently, given the massive weight he had to shoulder. While Legislate surprisingly popped up in one of the hottest sprints of the year where he finished an excellent 3rd.

The trip today should suit both down to the grounds and it will be interesting to see who is the better one. Both are exceptional horses but Legislate always strikes me as the “special one”. He may have a tactical advantage today too, he can make all from the front without a problem and use his superior speed to kick on when it matters.

At the given prices, the value clearly lies with Legislate.

Legislate @ 5/2 Coral – 10pts Win

Clash Of The Titans: G1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge

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The race is on and I couldn’t be more excited. The Group 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge gives us the mouthwatering clash of South Africa’s heavyweights Legislate VS Futura. The two stars have made it through their preparations and trainer Justin Snaith is happy to let them take each other on.

Snaith, who is in the unique position to train both of them, recently said when talking about this: “I had good horses before. But these are the real deal. They would take on anything in the world – they are THAT good.”

LEGISLATE

Reigning horse of the year, reigning Durban July champ,  Guineas and Daily News winner – he’s done it all in 2014. Heading into the Queen’s Plate back in January, South Africa’s Premier Mile race, he was thought to be virtually unbeatable. Weeks before he stuffed his rivals, including Futura, in the Grade 2 Green Point Stakes, when returning from a deserved break after winning the biggest race of them all, the Durban July.

That’s when the problems started. After Aan unusually dismal performance in the Queen’s Plate it emerged that Legislate suffered from a severe lung infection. That took him out for months to get over it. He also missed his intended return to the track recently, when he injured himself while loading into the stalls.

So, how much ability can Legislate retain? Is he 100% today? According to Justin Snaith, Legislate couldn’t be any better. He’s ready to go, though it’s hard to know whether he’s back to his brilliant best. One the positive side: Legislate looked sensational in his public work, effortless floating over the ground.

What’s more, Legislate usually runs very well as a fresh horse. He always made a successful return – bar the Queens Plate race, where we know he wasn’t right. He’s also unbeaten at Greyville and clearly has the speed and turn of foot for 1.600m as a former Guineas winner.

FUTURA

A hype horse at this time last year. Futura was a massive market mover for the Durban July, South Africa’s most important race. But he wasn’t tested in Grade 1 company yet back then. He looked an emerging star – or a bubble ready to burst – whatever way you wanted to see it. But he proved his class when running out a strong third in the July, with the run of the race clearly against him. He redeemed himself soon after, landing a deserved first success on the highest level.

He hasn’t looked back since then, bar one race: When put into his place by Legislate in the Green Point Stakes. But he subsequently completed the Queen’s Plate & Met double – which is a rare feast! The handicapper reacted, put Futura’s rating up to massive 120 – which means he’s one of the top rated horses in the world now – mind you, 3lb better than Legislate!

Futura had a little break afterwards but was back as strongly as ever when winning a minor race in preparation to the Rising Sun Gold Challenge last month. The general perception is that 1.600m is not an ideal trip for him – 2.000m seems the distance. However his record over 1.600m speaks for itself. 6-4-1-1. Never been out of the money.

BEST OF THE REST

Of course this is not a two-horse-race. Ten more or less well fancied rivals try to land a blow against the two big guns. Ice Machine with Anton Marcus on board is the closest pursuer in the betting. He was an impressive winner of his prep race recently and loves the trip. Not one you want to underestimate but on bare form has has a little to find.

The rest of the field can only hope that the race turns into a muddling affair, which may not quite suit the heavyweights, and as a result they may encounter in-running trouble. There was a shock winner in this very same race twelve month ago, so it’s not quite out of the world. A sprint finish would probably suit Willow Magic most. He ran well in a big Grade 1 sprint recently but stays 1.600m.

VERDICT

I believe a Legislate at his best is the best horse in South Africa – better than Futura too. Before his injury troubles this was the general perception. He was virtually unbeatable, went into the Queen’s Plate a 9/20 chance! Over 1600m he has an advantage against Futura as well. But only if he can find back to his brilliant best.

The race will tell us if the old Legislate is back. Visually he looked superb in his work. He goes well fresh and I give him the benefit of the doubt today. He he’s almost twice as big in the betting as Futura. Convert his odds into a percental chance: 11/4 = 26.6667%.

So if I ask myself: Is Legislate a better chance in this field, if anywhere near his best? Absolutely! I’d nominate Willow Magic as the joker in the race and wouldn’t be surprised if Halve The Deficit can outrun his big price tag – although both shouldn’t be anywhere good enough if things go normal.

2.45 Greyville:
Legislate @ 11/4 Sportingbet – 10pts Win

Assegai’s a big price on the Greyville Poly

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

2.25 Greyville: MR 95 Handicap, 1.900m

Not much going on on the domestic front so lets head to South Africa for an intriguing Handicap on the Greyville Polytrack. Some really good horses are going to post there, most notably the top weight Blance Sheet, a 3 year old gelding who tried to take on the best in Graded company recently.

He’s not been disgraced but found it much easier when dropped into Handicap company the last time when landing a good MR98. He’s up in the mark and tries a new trip today – which he failed to stay in the past – so that is a negative for the short favourite.

Lightly raced Krambambuli took on much stronger the last two. He was a fair third in the Cape Derby, but couldn’t back it up. This is easier and he is likely to get the trip, but in truth he has only won a low-grade handicap to date.

De Kock’s Trip To Rio could be interesting if he stays the 1900m trip. He was second in a 1m Listed event on the poly last year but utterly disappointing when last seen in a MR92 Handicap. He could well improve, though definitely has to so as more is required here.

I’m quite interested in four year old Assegai. He is the only course and distance winner in the field and was impressive when landing a MR 90 Handicap over CD on his penultimate run. He wasn’t disgraced when fifth in a very hot Listed event subsequently, taking on seasoned top class graded hoses. He will find this today much easier. He had a little break since then but usually does very well as a fresh horse.

He has to be at his best in order to give weight away to the smart three year olds, though with conditions very much in his favour, might well be able to do so. Top jockey is booked today – at 10/1 he looks overpriced in this field.

Assegai @ 10/1 Sportingbet – 5pts Win