A brilliant day of racing at Kenilworth today: two competitive Grade 2’s, and two hot Grade 1 contests, including the King’s Plate. Christophe Soumillon is also here, back in the saddle for the first time since THE incident.
We will see the mouthwatering clash of wonder mare Captain’s Ransom going against the up an coming 3-year-old Make It Snappy, with Durban July winner Sparkling Water thrown in for good measure in the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes.
Obviously the Queen’s Plate and the return of Charles Dickens is what everyone wants to see. I am desperately exciting to find out whether this colt is the superstar he promises to be.
2.10 – Grade 1 King’s Plate, 1 mile
The race everyone has been waiting for: superstar 3-year-old colt Charles Dickens takes on the best of South Africa’s older horses to find whether he truly is the real deal, the best in a long time, perhaps ever, as he promised to be in his six most scintillating career runs to date.
Before we get to crown Charles Dickens the king – how fitting for the new name of race after the death of the British queen – it must be said this years King’s Plate is packed with superstar older horses. This won’t be a walk in the park.
Jet Dark: won this race the last two years in a row. The best miler/middle-distance horse in South Africa at the moment. Comes here fresher than others not having seen since winning a Grade 3 in early November.
Looked as good as ever there, after winning two Grade 1’s last year and ran a huge race in the Durban July as runner-up over a trip that stretched his stamina to the limits. Would be hot favourite without Charles Dickens in the race.
Kommetdieding – commonly known as the “people’s horse”. The 2021 Durban July winner, and last years Met winner. Didn’t win again since last January’s Met success, but often fought heroically in defeat.
Had a lovely prep run in the Green Point Stakes. Will need this to run at a red hot pace. He’s better over further, could be found out for speed today.
Golden Ducat – won in 2020 the Cape Derby and Champion Cup. Usually competitive but probably just below top level these days, especially over a mile. Solid prep run in the Green Point, though.
Linebacker – Memories of his spectacular 3-year-old season fading fast. In 2021 he won the Guineas, Cape Derby and Daily News. Bit unlucky in the Durban July the last two years, but certainly better over 10 furlongs than a mile against the very best.
Trip Of Fortune – won three of his last four and seems still progressing. Took his form to new heights when landing the slowly run Green Point Stakes last time out, a first success over a mile. Will need it to be a dawdle again to feature.
Also running are last years Guineas winner Zapatillas, who only has been seen once since that May victory. Will find this too hot, most likely. Al Muthana makes more appeal as a place chance if he could run anywhere near last June’s G1 Gold Challenge Cup winning form. Hard to make a case for Russian Rock and Speed Machine.
Unbeaten in six starts, he quickly has become the hottest equine property South African racing has seen in a long time. He’s already compared to the legendary Variety Club, and many think as good, if not potentially better, than the monster that was Horse Chestnut.
You can see why: from 5 furlongs to a mile Charles Dickens managed to win. Bar a slightly scary debut over the minimum trip, when he was still seriously green, he been the most impressive horse ever since.
Certainly since landing the Grade 3 Cape Classic on the bridle he looked to be something special. Last month the son of Trippi stepped up to a mile and up into Grade 1 company in the Cape Guineas. He had to answer two questions: does he stay the trip, and can he prove against the best 3-year-old colts?
He very much did. Even though he was a bit keen early on, he travelled sweetly well off the pace, was covered up until two furlongs from home, before pulled out wide.
What happened then was simply sensational. He destroyed his rivals with a devastating turn of foot to win handsomely by 4¼; but he could have won by the lengths of the straight if ridden out.
Charles Dickens looks a freak. He’s, no doubt the best colt I have seen in a very long time. Obviously I love a good colt from South Africa, have a soft spot for the racing there. This lad is special.
Yes, he’s got to prove it today. He takes on the very best. Jet Dark is a brilliant horse. If he can beaten him, then all the hype will be more than warranted.
I believe with the weight allowance Charles Dickens has in his favour today and the level of performances he has shown so far, he’s nearly unbeatable today. I don’t say this lightly.
Backing him at close to 1/2 isn’t a serious bet, I must say. It’s simply one I want to do because I want to be on this horse. It’s pure emotion…. Fly Charles Dickens…. fly.
10pts win – Charles Dickens @ 1.55
1.00 – G2 Anthonij Rupert Wyne Premier Trophy, 9f
13 go to post. This is super competitive. Not my type of race. There a few that caught the eye in their latest run, and there is, of course, star veteran Do It Again. Can he do it again? He sets the standard, still, but is an 8-year-old now.
Last years Cape Derby win Pomp And Power is probably the most talented individual, though, his behavioural issues are well documented. he ran poorly the last two, and the words from the yard that some of the fire isn’t quite there as it used to, is a concern.
On form Universal is the one to beat. Won over this course and distance in grade 3 company last year, and improved nicely for a tame comeback run when last seen an excellent runner-up in the Grade Green Point Stakes. He’s likely to get an ideal trip. Not much not to like, except that he rarely finishes strong, and could be vulnerable to a fast finisher.
That could be the one I am seriously sweet on: Airways Law. I backed him as a longshot in the Durban July last summer, when he came into South Africa’s Premier race as an unproven, yet exciting improver.
He ran a massive race that day, finishing 6th from off the pace, making fantastic progress in the final 3 furlongs. He ran the 4th fastest split for final 400m, only 0.2s slower than fastest finisher, class act Jet Dark, despite getting quite tiered in the the last 100 yards.
Sure, the low weight helped, but he ran on well against a pace bias, and it showed he can mix it with the best horses.
Leading up to the July he won three on the bounce, mainly on the All-Weather. Doing so in the most exciting style thanks to a devastating turn of foot. He is a strong traveller, who can change gear in an instant. In 7 of his 10 career runs did he clock the fastest final 400m splits.
Still quit unexposed on turf, this will only be his fifth start on grass, although, he’s already a Grade 3 winner on the surface over the 9f trip.
After the July he got a nice break, returned in December in a Grade 2 Handicap over this CD. He made a bit of late headway, but it was clear the run was badly needed.
He should strip much fitter and one would think connections have eyed this race. Jockey Gareth Wright is back in the saddle too – knows this horse really well from riding all five wins.
One could argue Airways Law has a bit to find with the very best here on the weights. However, I think there is good chance he can still improve a bit. He’s a super price to find out whether he’s a good one in this class.
10pts win – Airways Law @ 14/1
1.35 – Grade 1 Paddock Stakes, 9f
Superstar filly Captain’s Ransom is a short price favourite to land her 14th career victory in then 17 starts. An outstanding record, especially against her own sex she is tough to beat. She also loves Kenilworth.
But 9 furlongs is close to her stamina limit. She has won this race last year, but her very best comes over shorter and this looks a strong renewal. In her favour maybe the lack of pace. At prices I am happy to take her on, as she isn’t getting younger, either.
Sparkling Water the reigning Durban July champion hasn’t been quite that good in two runs since, and this trip is on the sharp side for her.
More appeal makes 5-year-old Marina. She is 4 from 7 over this course and distance and had a lovely prep. She is a big runner.
She was beaten back in November, however, in the Summer Bowl by rapidly improving 3-year-old filly Make It Snappy. There is 4.5kg turnaround in the weights, but the younger rival only races for the fifth time today and steps up in trip to 1.900m for the first time.
When last seen, she won the Fillies’ Guineas in fine style, which followed her Summer Bowl victory. She sees out a mile really well and as a daughter of Dynasty should have the required stamina for the additional furlong.
Her dam’s only other offspring won over 9 furlongs as well, so I don’t see an issue with the trip, at all. Her prominent racing style should be an advantage in a race where not many want to move forward, I reckon.
She can kick nicely from the front, as seen in the Bowl, where she ran the final 400m the fastest, despite having made all.
Of course she has to prove that she truly belongs here, now taking on the best older fillies. However, she is improving all the time, is nicely bred for the job, and with the WFA allowance could be hard to beat I believe. I’d make her a 2/1 shot in this field.
10pts win – Make It Snappy @ 7/2