Category Archives: South Africa

PREVIEW: Gauteng Guineas

This yeas Gauteng Guineas shapes as quite an intriguing contest where some rather exposed and seasoned runners are going to meet a bunch of unexposed, fresh contenders. Fitness levels, stamina and class are question marks for most runners in the line-up though we have right on top of the queue two extremely classy individuals – I’m talking about Harry’s Sun and Unparalleled of course. They are standing head and shoulders above the rest of the field, which is clearly reflected by heir respective official ratings.

Harry’s Sun interestingly has already Guineas form – he was a very respectable runner-up in the Cape Guineas behind top drawer Act Of War. Harry’s Sun was the leading two year old last season due to his success in the Grade 1 Champion Stakes. He followed up with another graded success however was subsequently beaten in the in the Dingaans in very convincing fashion by no one else than Unparalleled.

One could argue that he didn’t run to form that day, but one could also say that the winner was simply the better horse. He was better in the mentioned runner-up effort in the Cape Guineas, which overall rounded up a highly successful season for Harry’s Sun. He hasn’t been seen since though, and the lack of a prep run must be considered a worry. It is obvious that the preparation for the big race didn’t got to plan, yet he is currently trading as the 11/4 favourite. We have to trust his fitness, though no doubt he has the class to be a big runner if fully fit.

Harry’s Sun has the luxury of a generous draw, much in contrast to his *potentially* main rival Unparalleled. The Lateral son is literally drawn in the car park (18) and that could complicate things for obvious reasons. Nonetheless there is still plenty to like about his chance and a I’ve to admit that I’m a huge fan of his horse. I’m particularly fond of his excellent cruising speed and ability to produce an instant turn of foot. The draw is an issue, but he has a top jockey on board and he showed himself a very versatile runner if it comes to tactics.

So more than anything in a race like this, it’ll count for allot to settle well and be relaxed in the early parts, as well as to get the 1.600m trip. All those things are ensured with Unparalleled. He has a proven track record, has been progressive towards the end of last season and has been able to make a successful transition from handicaps into graded company, culminating in his emphatic Dingaans (1m) triumph. What I like about Unparalleled is the fact that he had a two month break, came back and impressed in his prep run over slightly shorter (1.450m). He’ll be bang on for the Guineas.

Mike De Kock has to be respected as always. He saddles two runners: Anjaal and Mutamakkin. The latter one should appreciate the trip and had a good prep run. He finished second behind Belong To Me and a neck in front to Unparalleled in the Grade 3 Tony Ruffel Stakes over 1.450m. More is required here around though, as he has much more weight to carry this time. His stable mate Anjaal was an excellent third in the Champion Stakes last year, however was slightly disappointing on his seasonal reappearance. He should strip fitter this time and has the potential to run really well in first time blinkers.

Sean Tarry’s Zambezi River hasn’t done much wrong in his career. A lightly raced winner of three races, who found the Cape Guineas too hot, had a fine prep run over 1.200m in a big sales race recently. He looks more like a sprinter than a miler, though, and may find this trip too far once again. In contrast Tarry’s second runner French Navy would certainly appreciate a real stamina test. He has fair form over 1.800m lately and if they go a mad pace, he’d have a chance.

Belong To Me was a fine Grade 3 winner recently, beating Unparalleled and Mutamakkin in a tight finish. The question is how much improvement has he left. Also the 1.450m trip of the recent was probably as far as he wants it. The booking of Anton Marcus for Precursor looks significant. The Captain Al son should be much better than his last two forms. He tries 1.600m for the first time, having only contested over sprinting trips. While he may have a fair chance to stay the trip on pedigree, it is much more a question mark if he’ll be able settle early on. The Captains Tune did well against older horses already and might be the pace angle here. if he gets an easy lead he could be dangerous. Normally he shouldn’t be good enough to win, though.

Verdict: There are a couple of bigger prices in the field that could well improve and run very well. But given all we know, it is hard to look beyond the first two in the market. Harry’s Son is a classy individual and if he is fit, he’ll be right there when it matters. The lack of recent run is a concerning fact though. This could open the door for Unparalleled. I was very surprised to see a price as big as 11/2 available. Analysing the race this morning without knowing the prices, I thought he would be my selection if it is about the most likely, though knowing how obvious his claims are, he’l be probably a very short and unattractive price for me. To see him as big as he is, I believe it is way too big. I expected 5/2, and can’t let 11/2 go. Yes, he has to overcome the widest draw and that needs to be reflected in the price. Yet he has the best form to offer, had a perfect prep run, loves track and trip and looks a class act the way he is travelling as well as quickening in his races.

The dark horses are the De Kock runners. Both could have more to offer and are interesting in their own right. Particularly Anjaal is intriguing. However his prep was utterly disappointing, despite the long lay-off you would have expected him to do better against a bunch of low grade handicappers. Nonetheless with first time handicappers, he is a horse that attracts me, but I can’t get over it to back him. So I gonna stick with Unparalleled in the hope he jumps well, settles well, is well positioned when the field turns for home and if so, I believe he’ll be very hard to stop.

2.25 Turffontein: Gauteng Guineas (Grade 2)
Unparalleled @ 11/2 Sportingbet – 5pts win

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Edit – Saturday, 28/02/15, 12.30: I do remain confident in Unparalleled, who is now available at even 6/1. However monitoring the betting, I can’t help but feel not attracted by the huge price for Precursor. Now available at 25’s, I have to get on that as it is simply way too big. The stamina question remain not insignificant, but on pedigree he has a fair chance. And from a good draw, I can see Marcus placing his mount in a handy position, ensuring that he settles and relaxes over this new trip, without pulling all his chances away. Marcus is a top man if it comes to that and as said before, his booking is a significant boost. – Precursor @ 25/1 Sportingbet – 5pts win

Fire Master can overcome big weight

Didn’t tip many winners in recent days, but The Hangman went in yesterday at Vaal at advised 10/1 odds! He clearly found something back of his former best and was a rather easy winner in the end. Because it worked yesterday, I gonna stick with South Africa today again

The 1.40 on a rather low grade Kenilworth card looks set up for one of the three year olds to take. The older horses are largely exposed and didn’t show anything that instils confidence in them, neithert hat they’d be able to produce anything better than the level they have performed to so far.

Favourite Sail For Gold looks pretty short though, given the fact that he had nine career starts already without looking all that progressive. He won a maiden race over a mile on his penultimate run and performed with credit on handicap debut and he may have still a bit more to offer dropping to 1.400m, but for all of that he is a good deal too short. Around Not Across makes more appeal on his Handicap debut after winning over 1.200m a maiden in fine form. Opening mark looks fair and stepping up in trip may well suit on only his fourth career start. However he is also a pretty short price.

Fire Master looks a pretty big price in comparison. He is also still lightly raced, won a maiden over 1.200m in good style and followed up with a strong performance in a MR77 Handicap stepping up to a mile, when he was less than two lengths beaten in third in the end. He was disappointing subsequently, but something was amiss in the latest and if he can reproduce his penultimate run, he must be in with a big chance as he is dropping in class today and is the highest rated individual here. He could have still plenty of improvement left, dropping to more suitable 1.400m should work in his favour. The downside is that he has 61.5kg to shoulder which is massive obviously.

But he is not giving too much weight away to the other 3yo’s which are all on big weights here due to the fact that is actually only a MR72 and the older horses a group of poor individuals. On balance, he should be a good deal shorter in the betting in my mind.

1.40 Kenilworth – MR72 Handicap:
Fire Master @ 6/1 Sportingbet – 5pts win

The Hangman is still a class act

A quick trip to South Africa today or the feature Handicap on the Vaal card – a very competitive looking MR92 Handicap. Many runners are of interest here, but I can’t let the top weight go unbacked at a pretty huge price. That is because The Hangman is clearly the class act in this field.

One has to remember that the five year old is a former winner of the big Grade 1 Champion Stakes! He hasn’t been in the winners circle since a Grade 2 triumph back in December 2012, though he was a good third behind subsequent Guineas runner-up Forest Indigo (who was that day then only denied by Triple Crown winner Louis The King) last February.

Since then he hasn’t shown too much. However his second start after rest tomorrow should see him in much better light given that he drops a good deal in class right in higher end of Handicaps. Trip should suit perfectly and rated a career lowest now, he must rate a big chance if he can regain something of his former best.

2.15 Vaal – MR 92 Handicap:
The Hangman at 10/1 Sportingbet – 5pts win

J&B Met: Futura is a true champion!

Hype – a word, when associated with horses, then often with a negative perception. This is because hyped horses often don’t do what everyone expects them to do. They don’t live up to the hype and more often than not their names are quickly forgotten again. Happens all the time. Nothing new.

The more it is astounding what South Africa’s Futura has done since he has been hyped to win the countries most prestigious race – the Durban July – last summer. Without ever having won or even contested a a race at the highest level, he was the focus of some huge hype. His ante-post price slashed to only a fraction of it, he went off as one of the favourites on the day of the July.

He didn’t win. He finished ‘only’ third. Still a remarkable achievement considering that he didn’t have the run of the race that day. He didn’t quite live up to the hype, but he proved to be a pretty good racehorse. Since then, Futura hasn’t looked back Soon he won a deserved first Grade 1, and after a well earned break he started into a new season with a brilliant success in South Africa’s most important race over 1.600m, the Queen’s Plate.

Eventually Futura bagged his third Grade 1 victory yesterday, when he landed the prestigious J&B Met, the countries Premier 10f race, and in its importance only overshadowed by the Durban July. Futura, the second favourite behind last years Triple Crown winner Louis The King, travelled like a dream throughout, and once the home straight opened up, jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe had only to press the button at the right time…. and whoosh off the went to win the big race! Futura produced an instant turn of foot, flying home to the line. That was easy! That was breathtaking! The world on his feet now, Futura is still a young horse with so much more to come. He truly has lived up to the hype. He’s a superstar!

PREVIEW: Cape Derby

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.

Ertijaal

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