Ten horses ranging from Do It Again on a 136 merit rating down to Crown Towers on 103 will line up for Saturday’s premier weight for age mile, the Grade 1 L’Ormarin’s Queen’s Plate, and it will arguably be the best field seen in South Africa this century.
There has been a record sale of early tickets for the glamorous event and there should be a vibe on course in keeping with the meeting’s status as “the Royal Ascot of South Africa.”
Last year’s Queen’s Plate was dubbed “the race of the century” due to the presence of Do It Again, Rainbow Bridge, Undercover Agent, Soqrat, Legal Eagle and the filly Snowdance. The first four of those mentioned will be lining up again and with the addition of Hawwaam, Vardy, One World and Twist Of Fate it could be argued that it is an even better field this year, although it does not contain as many Grade 1 winners. Hat Puntano’s presence ensured seven Grade 1 winners were in the race last year, compared to five this year.
The second lowest merit rated horse this year is the 116 merit rated Pack Leader, who did beat both Undercover Agent and Do It Again in the Grade 2 WSB Green Point Stakes over 1600m last time, although he was receiving 2kg and will now face them at level weights.
Do It Again is the Queen’s Plate title holder and is the reigning Equus Horse Of The Year as well as being the Equus Champion Miler, Champion Middle distance horse and Champion Older Male.
That he is at such big odds compared to the hot favourite Hawwaam is partly due to his below par Green Point run.
However, trainer Justin Snaith is not concerned about that outing.
He said, “It was a bit of a quiet run but it was extremely rough. He was bullied the whole way around the turn and in the straight he wasn’t going well enough and was cut off. But he also just needed the run. It was too long since his previous race. There was nothing for him to run in and he fell asleep just sitting waiting for the Green Point. But he has now had that run plus a gallop on the Kenilworth grass last Tuesday. Under the circumstances he is going to make up a lot of ground on those that beat him in the Green Point. He is ready but it is a very good field. It’s very exciting.”
Snaith admitted that Crown Towers had been entered to ensure a good pace. This four-year-old Camelot gelding has landed the perfect draw to make the most of this role, ten out of ten. Bernard Fayd’Herbe will thus be able to decide what he is going to do as the race unfolds.
Track And Ball have the Mike de Kock pair Hawwaam and Soqrat at the top of the boards at 9/10 and 5,25/1 respectively. Do It Again and Rainbow Bridge are next best on 5,50/1 apiece and the Green Point winner Vardy is quoted at 6,5/1. One World is 14/1, Twist Of Fate and Undercover Agent are each 28/1, Pack Leader is 44/1 and Crown Towers is 66/1.
Hawwaam is a winner of eight from just nine starts. However, he can still be called unexposed as he has won most of his races with consummate ease. The one win where he did have to do a little bit of work was in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 where he beat Twist Of Fate by 1,60 lengths, but that race did not pan out well for him. On the other hand, despite being a three-time Grade 1 winner, he has not faced horses as strong as Do It Again and Rainbow Bridge, so nobody knows exactly how good he is. He has some temperament issues and everybody in the country will be hoping there is no repeat of the starting stall antic which saw him having to be scratched from the Vodacom Durban July.
Hawwaam has drawn in pole.
Twist Of Fate is drawn two. He has a huge heart and will try his best. The trip is interesting considering he won the Politician Stakes over 1800m last year despite pulling. He could give some cheek.
Pack Leader is drawn three. This five-year-old was generally kept to longer trips in previous seasons, so is interesting here as he was dropped out from a wide draw in the Green Point and ran on well for fourth. He now has his third run after a layoff.
Do It Again is drawn four as opposed to six out of nine last year.
The Green Point winner Vardy is drawn five. He has always had class and a turn of foot and he was always going to come into his own as a four-year-old this season. He faces Rainbow Bridge, Undercover Agent and Do It Again on 2kg worse terms but should still beat them on paper, although obviously the Green Point can’t be taken at face value as most of the runners were returning from layoffs, Vardy included.
Soqrat is drawn six and will be hoping to go one better than his narrow second last year. He is the ultimate professional as he can be turned on and off at will and he has a fine burst of speed and the ability to sustain a finish.
One World, who was runner up in the Green Point is drawn seven, He is versatile and can lead or run on from off them.
Rainbow Bridge, who has a fine turn of foot, is draw eight compared to four last year when staying on for a 3,05 length third.
Undercover Agent, who likes to be up there, is drawn nine and although courageous he looks held by Do It Again, Rainbow Bridge and Soqrat.
This not to be missed race is off at 16h45 at Kenilworth on Saturday.
By David Thiselton