(16 April 2014)
Cape trainer Brett Crawford will give his big Champions Season hopeful Captain America a grass gallop at Summerveld soon as part of his preparation for the Gr 2 KRA Guineas on May 3.
Many of the other trainers at KZN’s main training centre are also revving up their strings for the festival of racing in KZN that lies ahead over the next three-and-a-half months.
Captain America’s chief aim for the season will be the Gr 1 Daily News 2000 and Crawford was confident that the headstrong antics that cost the big Captain Al colt in the Gr 1 Investec Cape Derby would not happen again.
His smart Dynasty colt Futura will be avoiding the KRA Guineas and will instead be running in a Graduation Plate over 1 600m. His merit rating of 79 is a bit misleading as this horse looks to be a classy sort, especially after the commanding manner in which he won on J&B Met day over 1 600m in a MR 80 Handicap.
He is certainly held in high regard by the Crawford yard.
Crawford’s fillies Zacharias and Maybe Yes will likely be running in the KRA Fillies Guineas. Zacharias is a very game filly by Lundy’s Liability and has already won four races.
She completed a hat-trick when winning her Champions Season pipe opener at Scottsville on Saturday in a fillies and mares MR 82 Handicap over 1 400m, beating her four-year-old stablemate Luna De Victoria by a neck. The group of Englishmen that own the Hemel ‘N Aarde-bred Zacharias are “over the moon” as she was purchased for a mere R35,000 at the Cape Premier Yearling Sale Book 2 in 2012.
The Mark Dixon-trained Scott Brothers-bred Mogok filly African Dream is also proving to be a bargain buy. She was purchased for R90,000 at the National Two-Year-Old Sales and finished third in Saturday’s Gr 3 Umzimkhulu Stakes for three-year-old fillies over 1 400m. That followed two wins on the trot and a close fourth in a Conditions Plate over 1 400m to the useful four-year-old filly Educated, from whom she received only 2kg.
Dixon said about her run on Saturday, “I can’t help feeling she is better than that as she pulled up a bit jarred up and might not have been too comfortable in the race.” She will also be aimed at the KRA Fillies Guineas.
Dixon’s four-year-old Summerhill-bred Mullin’s Bay gelding The Big League was backed from 20-1 into 33-10 in Saturday’s last race, a maiden over 1 200m, and held on well to beat Sail To Paradise by 0,25 lengths with the rest well beaten. He is a half-brother to the mare Bellagio, who won six races for the yard, and Dixon is thinking of targeting him at the KZN Breeder’s Million Mile.
Alistair Gordon’s Argonaut gelding Copybook ran a fine second at Scottsville on Saturday in the GR 3 Byerley Turk over 1 400m, especially considering he needed it after returning from a problem.
He had proved himself useful in Gr 1 company as a two-year-old and might be entered in the KRA Guineas depending on the draws and on how he comes on in the next week or two.
Frank Robinson rates his Listed Easter Handicap winner Great Rumpus an improving sort and the handicapper agreed by raising him ten points for that run to a merit rating of 92.
Robinson said his route will rest between targeting staying races such as the Highland Night Cup over 2 500m at Clairwood on May 11 and the Gr 3 Lonsdale Stirrup Cup over 2 400m on May 31 at Greyville, or having a tilt at the Gr 2 Betting World 1900 on May 16 at Greyville.
Dennis Drier was happy with all of his big horses for the season, including Beach Beauty who appears on Sunday in the Gr 3 weight for age Poinsettia Stakes over 1 200m at Clairwood.
Drier clearly felt that his Jet Master filly jet Aglow was better than her two length dead-heat third in the Gr 1 Laurie Jaffee Empress Club Stakes over 1 600m at Turffontein on Friday night as he reckoned she had hit the front too soon.
(16 April 2014)
Brilliant sprinting filly Via Africa worked on the Ashburton grass yesterday morning and is on track for another crack at the Gr 1 Computaform Sprint.
The daughter of Var, working alone, picked up the gallop at the 800m mark and worked through smartly under big race rider Kevin Shea.
“She knows everything,” said Shea. “Nothing worries her. She was keen coming off the bend but when I eased her back she started to take it easy and I had to ‘click’ her up. It was smart work.”
Trainer Duncan Howells was very pleased with her effort. “I’ve got her just where I want her,” he said. “She was peaking just a little too early last week so I backed off her a bit. I think she will be spot on next week.”
Shea also revealed that he had been approached by Mike de Kock to ride Vercingetorix in the Hong Kong Mile next weekend but had turned him down. Quizzed on his decision to forego the lucrative international stage he said, “Duncan has been good to me. He’s given me chances and I didn’t want to let him down.”
Ominous words for the opposition next Saturday.
Via Africa was unfortunate to run into What A Winter twice last season, finishing second to the Champion Sprinter in both the Gr 1 Cape Flying Championship and the Gr 1 Computaform Sprint.
“Mike Bass spoke to me afterwards and said that he had What A Winter at his absolute peak for those two races and he’s a trainer who knows what he’s talking about. We were just beaten by a better horse.”
A foray to the Western Cape during the summer was going pear-shaped as Via Africa could only manage third behind Fairyinthewoods in both a Conditions race and the Sceptre Stakes but was subsequently found to have been incubating a virus.
After some soul-searching and advice from good friend Eric Sands in whose yard Via Africa was stabled, the filly took her chances in the Gr 1 Cape Flying Championship and this time went one better, beating the much touted Red Ray.
Via Africa’s warm-up for the Computaform Sprint late last month proved no contest as she rattled home ahead of last season’s Gr 1 Mercury Sprint winner All Is Secret who lines up in the Gr 3 Poinsettia Stakes at Clairwood on Sunday.
(16 April 2014)
J&B Met winning trainer Vaughan Marshall said that his most unexposed Champions Season contender was the Western Winter gelding Exelero who has always been held in high regard and is now set to fulfil his potential.
Exelero was the talk of the town in June last year before starting 7-10 favourite on debut over 1 450m at Clairwood in the Listed Looklocal Gatecrasher Stakes. He finished a two-length second to the useful Zambezi Torrent, a good effort, especially considering the race didn’t pan out well and MJ Byleveld was forced to take the lead early.
The Lammerskraal-bred bay who is owned by prominent owners Marsh Shirtliff, Bryn Ressell and Markus and Ingrid Jooste, won his next start, a moderate maiden over 1 400m at Scottsville, by a facile 4,75 lengths.
However, he disappointed in his subsequent feature race campaign from the end of July in Durban until the end of November in Cape Town.
He was a rig, meaning he had to endure quite a complex gelding operation and therefore needed his only run since, on February 22, when finishing 4,15 lengths behind Tiger Tiger, who is no slouch, over 1 200m at Kenilworth in a MR 93 Handicap.
Exelero has dropped to an 83 merit rating and looks one to be with this winter.
Marshall has made a good start to his Champions Season campaign, winning the Gr 3 Byerley Turk over 1 400m at Scottsville on Saturday with the Horse Chestnut gelding Chestnut’s Rocket.
He didn’t face the cream of the three-year-old crop but Marshall implied that he was a top drawer horse who would be able to mix it with the best.
He pointed out that before his hat-trick of wins he had given the subsequent Gr 1 Grand Parade Guineas winner Elusive Gold 3kg over
1 600m and been beaten only 0,5 lengths. Chestnut’s Rocket carried joint-topweight on Saturday and it was his third successive front-running win.
Previously his win in the Listed Ibhayi Stakes over 1 400m at Fairview was possibly even more impressive as he gave the hard-knocking Justin Snaith-trained Glenton 2kg and pulled away from him to win by 6,5 lengths, despite having to be used up early to overcome a wide draw. Chestnut Rocket’s next race is likely the Gr 2 KRA Guineas at Greyville on May 3.
Marshall said that “the jury is still out” on whether he would stay the trip of the Gr 1 Daily News 2000 but that classic event was also a possible target.
Meanwhile, Marshall’s Met winner Hill Fifty Four is “doing well” and will have his Champions Season pipe opener in the Gr 2 Drill Hall Stakes over 1 400m at Greyville on May 3, where he ran an eye-catching third last year.
Marshall believed he had made a mistake last year by giving the five-year-old Captain Al gelding a break after the Met, as he picked up condition, so the yard have kept him in full work since the Met this year and he is likely to enjoy a more fruitful campaign.
Marshall won two Gr 1s last Champions Season and one of those was the Mercury Sprint with Captain Al filly All Is Secret.
This speedily-bred grey finished a 2,5 length second to the brilliant Via Africa in her Champions Season pipe-opener in the Listed Kwazulu-Natal Stakes over 1 000m at Scottsville on March 30, but “needed the run badly”.
It was her first outing since the Mercury Sprint last July, as she suffered a setback in November when bitten by a spider
All Is Secret will run in the Gr 3 weight for age Poinsettia Stakes over 1 200m at Clairwood on Sunday, where she hasn’t drawn favourably in barrier one, and that might be her last outing before her first big Champions Season target, the Gr 1 SA Fillies Sprint over 1 200m at Scottsville on May 24, in which she finished fourth last year.
Marshall’s four-year-old Black Minnaloushe gelding Black Toga enjoyed no luck last Champions Season and wasn’t disgraced in his KZN pipe-opener when finishing a 5,75 length fifth to the classy mare Louvre over 1 400m at Scottsville.
Marshall said that Black Toga was unfortunately “full of problems” and “limited in distance”, so he might stick to a sprinting campaign with him this season and the Gr 2 Post Merchants over 1 200m at Greyville June would be his main mission.
The yard won the Gr 1 Allan Robertson Championship over 1 200m last year at Scottsville with the Silvano filly Happy Valentine, but have left most of their best two-year-olds in Cape Town this year as their quota of 20 boxes were largely filled by the older horses.