Turffontein Standside hosts three feature races tomorrow which will provide pointers to the forthcoming feature season which begins in real earnest with the Gauteng Guineas meeting on February 8.
The Grade 3 Tony Ruffel Stakes over 1400m saw Hawwaam remaining unbeaten last year and Mike de Kock has another unbeaten runner taking part here, Alibi Guy. However, preference are for two classy distance suited horses, Ikigai and Got The Greenlight. Ikigai raced twice in November, so will be fit and his form reads well. Last time out this strongly built Vercingetorix colt beat Riverstown by 1,25 lengths over 1450m and the latter followed up by beating older horses in the Grand Heritage over 1475m off a merit rating of 104. Ikigai’s previous race over 1200m looks just as good on paper as he finished just a neck behind the filly True To Life when receiving only 0,5kg and the latter followed up with an impressive win in the Grade 3 Magnolia Handicap. Ikigai has a fair draw of four. Got The Greenlight was the Equus Champion two-year-old of last season after winning the Grade 1 Premier’s Champion Stakes over 1600m going away by three lengths. He has an impressive stride and has plenty of scope. On the downside this is his first start of the season and he has to give lumps of weight away, including 7kg to Ikigai. His class could pull him through over a trip which will suit him running fresh, although his draw of six is tricky. Alibi Guy would prefer further but the long straight will suit him and he should be staying on resolutely. Leopold, Westlife and the filly Gaian Glory could fight out the minor money.
In the Grade 3 Three Troikas Stakes over 1400m Wisteria Walk has fine form and is ideally course and distance suited. She went close to beating one of the best of the crop, Mill Queen, in the Starling Stakes over this course and distance at level weights in her penultimate start. Last time out she was run out of it when third to two classy older fillies, Ronnie’s Candy and Dancing Queen, in the Grade 2 Ipi Tombe Stakes over 1600m. She cast a shoe in that race and gave the impression that at this stage the 1400m would suit her better. Gin Fizz is also ideally distance suited and her draw of four is low enough to be an advantage for her front-running style. She is not a straight forward filly but has speed and class and is not going to be easy to catch. Magic School is a long-striding sort who proved her ability when finishing second to the top class gelding Frosted Gold in the Grade 3 Graham Beck Stakes over this course and distance. She has a tricky draw but with a good passage she would not be a surprise winner. Stage Dance is a progressive sort who finished close to the classy Snow Palace last time over 1600m and she could earn. There is not much between her and Victoria Paige on that last run. Spiritofthegroove won the Empress Palace Ready To Run Stakes over course and distance in good style, albeit in soft ground. There was some rain this week, which might aid her cause, and she has a plum draw of three. Mount Laurel won her first three starts and will improve as she matures. She is better than her last run and can’t be discounted back at a distance category she has won over. Shivers has a tough task with topweight and looks held by Wisteria Walk. Marygold finished a fine third in the Grade 3 Fillies Mile, beating Gin Fizz by over six lengths, but she looks likely to prefer further than this. Frosted Steel makes least appeal of the Tarry trio but ran well over this trip last time in a Graduation Plate and she could earn.
The Grade 3 London News Stakes over 1800m has only six runners and Gauteng Summer Cup third-placed Al Mutawakel is the one to beat. He runs on from behind which is not always easy in a small field, especially when a front runner dictates. Chijmes is a front-runner and will have a fine chance if able to dictate. However, the filly Return Flight has also won from the front before so Chijmes is unlikely to be given an easy lead. Jet Start is on the up and is tipped to finish third behind Al Mutawakel and Chijmes. The other two Divine Odyssey and Green Haze would not be surprise winners, so putting the field in the Pick 6 might be the way to go.
By David Thiselton
Image caption: The Mike de Kock-trained GIN FIZZ runs in the Three Troikas Stakes at Turffontein tomorrow.