Hawwaam has a seven-year hoodoo on favourites, as well as 13 rivals, to overcome if he is to give Mike de Kock and Anton Marcus their fourth Sun Met victories at Kenilworth on Saturday week.
Ever since the eight-time champion trainer last won South Africa’s most valuable conditions race with the odds-on Australian-bred filly Igugu in 2012 the favourite has been beaten – and three of them didn’t even make the frame.
Hawwaam, despite managing only fifth in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, is rock solid at around 17-10 and not even the presence of the man who is the most successful big race jockey in the world at the moment on last year’s winner Rainbow Bridge has convinced the bookmakers that they need to lengthen the favourite.
The Eric Sands runner remains third best at 9-2 with Queen’s Plate winner Vardy (28-10) considered a bigger danger. Ten different stables are represented and only Brett Crawford (with just 45-1 outsider Undercover Agent) can match De Kock’s three Met winners. Vaughan Marshall (One World) has won it twice, Justin Snaith (Do It Again and Bunker Hunt) once while Eric Sands’ victory 12 months ago was also his first in the great race.
Bernard Fayd’Herbe (Bunker Hunt) equals Marcus with three Mets to his name but Piere Strydom ( Head Honcho), Greg Cheyne (More Magic) and Aldo Domeyer (Twist Of Fate) are the only others in the line-up to have won the race before.
Bunker Hunt is a 33-1 chance but his trainer’s observations suggest he could be each way value at that price. “I rate him the dark horse of the race,” says Snaith who was pleased with the way the gelding went when ridden by Fayd’Herbe in a gallop with Wild Coast on the course last Saturday. “His second to Hawwaam in the Premiers was a prep and, by not running in the Queen’s Plate, he comes into this feeling good.”
It was at this meeting four years ago that Snaith equalled the eight-winner world record for the number of races won on the same card and this time he again has the most runners with 36. Glen Kotzen has 17, Brett Crawford 15 and Candice Bass-Robinson 14.
Richard Fourie will be the only jockey riding in all 12 races but Cheyne, Fayd’Herbe and Morne Winnaar each have 11 mounts. Interestingly Ryan Moore, who has never ridden at Kenilworth before, will get the chance to assess the course on mounts for Sean Tarry in the two R5 million CTS sales races. He also rides the part-Coolmore owned Dynasty’s Blossom for Crawford in the Western Cape Stayers.
Candice Bass-Robinson and Domeyer hope to repeat last year’s Bidvest Majorca win with Clouds Unfold but seemingly Front And Centre will prove a major threat despite managing only fifth when odds-on for the Cartier Paddock Stakes last time.
“I think she didn’t stay the nine furlongs that day,” said Crawford. “She is unbeaten over seven and she won a Group 1 over a mile. At Greyville she got away with it because of the short straight.”
By Michael Clower