The Turffontein meeting on Saturday has seven Graded and one Listed event and it includes the Grade 1 SA Derby over 2450m and the Grade 1 weight for age HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes over 1600m.
Hawwaam is the most exciting horse in South Africa and the only concern in the Derby is a tendency he had developed to over race, especially as he is drawn 15 out of 15. However, the past tense was used in the previous sentence as he settled well in the SA Classic last time with a customised bit and Matthew de Kock also said during the week, when discussing his “attitude”, “We seem to be winning the battle.” His rider Gavin Lerena is riding at the top of his game too. Mike de Kock clearly thinks very highly of this horse and twenty years on from Horse Chestnut’s exhilarating Derby win some will be anticipating the same.
Gift For The Gap has scope for plenty of improvement and ran on well to win the Derby Trial so could be the one to pick up the pieces, although on official merit ratings he does has a lot to do. Zillzaal looks tailor made for this race as he stays on resolutely so from a good draw he with a first time tongue tie on he should earn. Marchingontogether has come class and is well drawn and being out of a Montjeu mare he should stay. Last Of The Legend is a good looking sort who should stay and he has plenty of scope for improvement. Cape Derby winner Atyaab can also earn with blinkers on as he is capable of staying on well and should get the trip.
In the Horse Chestnut Stakes Legal Eagle usually runs well fresh and could put his flat L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate run behind him. He ran a cracker from off the pace in the Sun Met and is well drawn in his bid to win this trace for the fourth time in succession. Soqrat showed when winning the Cape Guineas and losing narrowly in the Queen’s Plate he has all the assets of a top racehorse from good temperament, good turn of foot and resolve and he is a worthy favourite. He got the run of the race in the Queen’s Plate when beating Legal Eagle by 3,75 lengths and has a fair draw again but not as good a draw as Legal Eagle’s. Cascapedia is coming into her own and this is probably her best course and distance so she can make her presence felt from pole position. Tilbury Fort could still be improving having won four out of seven starts since gelding and he showed last time when flying up over 1400m that he will be effective over this course and distance. Cirillo was beaten 3,50 lengths by Soqrat in the Cape Guineas which on paper puts him up with Legal Eagle and he can improve.
Return Flight should relish the 2450m course and distance of the Grade 2 Wilgerbosdrift SA Oaks. Her sire Pomodoro won the SA Derby and she appears to be taking more after him that her dam, who was by Special Preview and won from 1000m to 1400m. Blossom ran on well from off the pace in the SA Classic, despite a steady pace set by Return Flight, so looks likely to relish the course and distance and should be right there. She will be attempting to emulate her mother Cherry On The Top, who won this race when completing the Triple Tiara. Bize impressed when winning the Oaks Trial as she was caught wide throughout yet still managed to find extra effortlessly and won easily. She is unbeaten and could still be anything so is the dark horse. Chitengo is by SA Derby winner Elusive Fort out of Montjeu mare Gorongosa out of Grade 2 Gold Bowl (3200m) winner Gorongosa, so she will relish the trip. Seville Orange has shown signs of class and is improving all the time so she is contender to being by Duke Of Marmalade out of a Galileo mare. Fariha and Second Request also have claims on a race which is more open than the merit ratings suggest.
Fly Away impressed on debut and comes out well on formlines in the Grade 3 Pretty Polly Stakes over 1100m, the first leg of the PA.
In the next race the Grade Protea Stakes over 1100m Frosted Gold and the filly Cavivar are classy types and could fight it out.
By David Thiselton