Category Archives: South Africa

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

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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

Preview – President’s Champions Challenge

Exciting filly Majmu is going to post as the hot favourite in the big Grade 1 President’s Champions Challenge this afternoon at Turffontein. Unbeaten in her last three, including successin the Cape Fillies Guineas and the Empress Club Stakes, both Grade 1’s, she has obviously star potential. Trainer Mike De Kock hails her as a filly right up with the best he has ever trained – if not even better!

She is weighted to win this big Grade 1 today. She receives loads of weight as a filly against the boys as well as for her age. If she is as good as anyone thinks she is, then there isn’t too much in this field that could be dangerous to her. However first time against the boys over 2.000m is a completely alien experience for her. And that is the concern. At a very short price, I take her one…

… but only because there is a horse in the line-up which ranks among the best in the county over the 2.000m trip. That is of course Wylie Hall. The memories of his devastating demotion to second place in the biggest race of the South African racing calendar is still vivid – after a tough battle with Legislate, the stewards decided that he had interfered with the original runner-up in a way that made a difference about the outcome of the race. You could see it that way, and many did, but other opinions were voiced aplenty as well.

Anyway, the Durban July is history, Wylie Hall has moved on and made his season debut earlier this month in the Grade 2 Colorado King Stakes. He won this prep race easily, in fact couldn’t have been more impressive and is clearly in good order. Naturally he should improve for the run.

His excellent track record means he is expected to go really well today. I see him as the only real danger to Majmu. He has to give 4.5kg away to the filly. But age, sex as well as proven class over track and trip are fairly reflected in the weights in my mind. At 5/1 he looks the value in this race.

President’s Champions Challenge (Grade 1)
Wylie Hall @ 5/1 Sportingbet – 5pts Win

Saratoga Dancer’s ready to strike at Greyville!

I believe odds-on favourite Jet Explorer can be beaten here. He’s a fair Stakes performer, and his 4th in the Queen’s Plate is a big piece of form, though he hasn’t won in a long time and usually stays on from off the pace only beating tired horses, which can sometimes look spectacular from a visual point of view, but doesn’t mean that he is getting any closer to putting his head in front when it really matters. That says this race represents a significant drop in class and theoretically he’s the horse they all have to beat. However he probably won’t be 100%, as this is only a stepping stone and prep for bigger targets down the road.

There are some other good horses in the race here, but without a shadow of a doubt the most intriguing runner is lightly races Saratoga Dancer. He receives loads of weight from most rivals here and that should ensure that he’s well in, as he is clearly a better horse than his current rating of 78 in my mind. This will be his second run after a break as well after being gelded and his reappearance over 1.200m in a hot race was very promising last month.

He finished a fine third that day, less than two lengths beaten by Grade 1 winning Kochka while receiving only 3.5kg from this 105 rated top class individual. Kochka wasn’t 100% that day, but so wasn’t Saratoga Dancer, who also got a very light hands and heels ride but stayed on nicely over a trip short of his best. He clearly got ability and needs further. Up over 1.600m now, he’s got a massive chance to win.

7.15 Greyville: Pinnacle Stakes (3YO plus)
Saratoga Dancer @ 10/1 Sportingbet – 5pts win  

Tuesday Night Quickie

Quick Tip

One late selection for the night racing at Turffontein – the last race on the card, a rather poor maiden, looks interesting. The favourite Odd Rob is a very short price here in my mind. One has to assume that he improves dramatically for his recent outing. He finished a good runner-up after a long lay-off and had been gelded before, so indeed he should come on today, but the step up in trip looks a bit of a concern. His lightly raced profile gives him an ideal chance though, if he can find a bit improvement and stay the trip, as the opposition looks weak. But he is still way too short for this sort of race.

Equally lightly raced overcame big odds to run a fair third on debut. He may progress while Woody Glow could improve for the step up in trip. But those races often produce some strange results and longs-hot Twenty Eight Nine might sneak in for the placings here.

He didn’t show anything in his first three starts, but this is his third run after gelding, and sometimes this needs a bit until improvement kicks-in. He tries 2.000m for the first but should relish this new trip on pedigree. Interesting is the jockey booking with Johnny Geroudis who is red hot at the moment and is riding here for red hot trainer Alec Laird. I’ve seen worth 66/1 shots in my life.

8.45 Turffontein: Maiden Plate
Twenty Eight Nine @ 66/1 Bet365 – 2.5pts EW

East Cape Sprint stepping stone for Copper Parade

Copper Parade is a proper Grade 1 horse running at Listed level today. There are reasons for that, as he can be bit temperamental in times and hasn’t been seen since January. Bigger targets are on the mind of connections with the big Grade 1 sprints looming. He is the top rated sprinter in the country due to his success in the Premier G1 Computaform Sprint last year and a subsequent runner-up effort in the G1 Mercury Sprint.

He’s been a bit up and down in the next three, but dropping big time in class today, he is clearly the one the others have to beat. That says he is a slightly better horse over 1.000m but has won over further in the past, so 1.200m should be okay and class should prevail. On official ratings he is well in today.

Main opponent should be the only filly in the race, Yoshie. A multiple winner of sprint races at listed level, she is well in the weights compared with most rivals and should run a very big race. However she has loads to find on the ratings with Copper Parade. In-form horse Unannounced won four on the bounce and should be competitive, but as most in this field, has mainly been running in handicaps.

If things go normal, Copper Parade can’t get beaten here. A 115 rated individual against 100 rated horses and lower. This discrepancy is not offset by weight allowances at all, so if he runs to his ability, it should be game over at 200m post.

2.10 Fairview: East Cape Sprint Cup (Listed)
Copper Parade @ 5/4 Sportingbet – 10pts win