Laird duo ready for action
PUBLISHED: January 20, 2015
The Charles Laird-trained pair Normanz and Beloved Country leave Summerveld for Cape Town this morning ahead of their engagements in the R1 million Gr 1 Betting World Cape Flying Championship over 1000m and the R1 million Cape Thoroughbred Sales Stakes over 1200m respectively at Kenilworth on Saturday and he said that their preparations had both gone perfectly.
The four-year-old Var gelding Normanz won the Gr 1 Golden Horse Casino Sprint over 1200m last May when leading from start to finish under Athandiwe Mgudlwa, although that race was run under handicap conditions and he only had to carry 53kg.
Saturday’s race is weight for age, so will be a lot tougher. However, on the bright side there are no dominant sprinters in the country this year, considering Via Africa is now overseas, and the race looks very open.
Normanz has always had only one style of racing and that is to go like the clappers from gun to tape. The break is therefore crucial and this is Laird’s only concern.
He said that Normanz “does have his issues with the pens” but added that he had spoken to the stipendiary stewards and hoped he would be able to load as late as possible. Normanz, as opposed to being difficult to load, does not enjoy standing in the pens.
Normanz raced in the Gr 2 Stronach Group Merchants Racing Merchants over 1160m at Turffontein last time out under Sean Cormack and showed tremendous early pace before staying on for a five length sixth to the classy three-year-old Trip To Heaven, to whom he gave 6,5kg. On strict formlines the Gauteng raider Trip Tease has him well held, as he subsequently beat Trip To Heaven over 1000m when giving the latter 5kg. However, in Normanz’s favour is that his last race, seen together with his Golden Horse Casino Sprint win, showed that he would probably prefer the tough 1000m trip of the Cape Flying Championships than the quick Turffontein 1160m.
Normanz is drawn five out of the 13 horse field and Laird believed that looking at current trends he was on the right side. However he added that Anton Marcus, who will be riding him having recovered from his thumb injury, had always believed that it was possible to win from anywhere down the Kenilworth straight.
Laird has an outstanding record in the Cape Flying Championships. In the last ten years he has won it three times, twice in succession with Nhlavini in 2005 and 2006 and with Rebel King in 2009.
Beloved Country, on a merit rating of 97, is the joint highest rated filly in the CTS Stakes, although there are four males rated higher.
This Trippi filly won three out of four races as a two-year-old, including beating Harry’s Son in the Non-Black Type Sentinel Stakes over 1000m and beating Pine Princess in the Listed Devon Air Stakes over 1450m.
This season she was twice narrowly beaten by her brilliant stable companion Rich Girl on the Greyville polytrack over 1000m and 1200m respectively and in her last start at Scottsville in very soft conditions she was beaten only 1,75 lengths by the progressive Littleblacknumber, despite conceding 2kg (or 4,5 kg if the apprentice claim is not included.) She will also be drawn towards the inside in barrier six on Saturday.
Laird said that she was “very well”. She has plenty of natural speed but prefers to come from off them, which could augur well for her because horses around her like Captain Blackwater, Brutal Force and Precursor look likely to be up with the pace.
Marcus has been riding at Summerveld recently. He is having his first comeback ride from his thumb injury on Thursday aboard the Mike de Kock-trained Red Ray in Dubai. Marcus has a fine record in Dubai, having only had seven rides there for three wins, including the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free on Jay Peg in 2008 and the US$1 million Godolphin Mile on Variety Club last year.
J&B Met 2015 final field announced
PUBLISHED: January 19, 2015
The R2,5 million J&B Met final field was announced live on Tellytrack at 18h30 this evening and due to a few late scratchings, a field of only 15 runners is now due to line up over 2000m on January 31 at Kenilworth Racecourse.
However, this will not detract from the prestige of the great Gr 1 event as it is still full of quality and includes the three highest merit rated horses in the country.
Furthermore, while the scratching of the best three-year-old in the country Act Of War was the biggest blow to the big race, he will still be seen in action on the day in the Gr1 Investec Cape Derby and could now well be viewed as the “meeting banker.”
Jet Belle, who was the only female incumbent in the top 20 of the final log, was another important scratching but has also not been lost to the meeting as she will run in the Gr 1 Klawervlei Majorca Stakes instead.
The J&B Met gallops will be held at Kenilworth racecourse from 07h00 on Thursday January 22. The Barrier Draw ceremony will follow the gallops and is due to start at 08h00. Both the gallops and the Barrier draw will be screened live on Tellytrack.
– Kenilworth Racing
*Images supplied by Kenilworth Racing
Competitive look about Cape Flying champs
PUBLISHED: January 19, 2015
The Gr 1 weight for age Betting World Cape Flying Championship to be run at Kenilworth over 1000m on Saturday is a particularly intriguing contest this year because for the first time in many a year the country does not have any dominant sprinters meaning a decent sized and ultra competitive field of 13 runners will line up.
In a field of this size the going will be all important. Jockeys would usually stay towards the outside down the straight at Kenilworth, but in recent meetings the inside appears to be more favourable.
The wind also has an impact as jockeys become reluctant to lead into the brunt of it and the pace can therefore be affected. This was seen in the Diadem over 1200m, in which Happy Forever was able to set modest fractions up front, which allowed Captain Of All, who sat handy at his quarter, to steal a march on the closers.
However, Saturday’s race is over 1000m and one horse that is unlikely to hang around is Normanz as his chances probably rest on his ability to lead at a strong gallop and kick on as he did when winning the Gr 1 Golden Horse Casino Sprint, albeit over 1200m and with a nice galloping weight under handicap conditions.
There are six Gr 1 winners in the field, but to date none of them have been as good as the like of J J The Jet Plane, What A Winter, Val De Ra, Shea Shea or Via Africa, who between them have made the Gr 1 sprints quite easy to assess over the last few years.
However, one horse in Saturday’s field, Copper Parade, did beat Via Africa in the Computaform Sprint last season and even the connections of the latter had to admit that she had no excuses and had simply been beaten by a better horse on the day. Copper Parade likes to be able to stride out freely behind a strong pace before using his devastating finishing burst and it panned out perfectly for him that day.
The pace on Saturday is not likely to be as strong, but should be stronger than it was in the Diadem, in which he charged home for second after being held up at a crucial stage. Piere Strydom is aboard Copper Parade again and might try and get a tow from Normanz, who is drawn five, two inside of him.
Former Gr 1 Tsogo Sun Medallion winner Captain Of All represents Dennis Drier, who has not left Cape Town without at least one Gr 1 since his regular campaigns began there in the 2011/2012 season, and he won this race with Val De Ra in 2012. Drier’s campaign this season has been effected by travel sickness and a virus, but Gathering Fame’s win in a Listed race on Saturday confirmed that the string is over it. Captain Of All could give Drier his Cape Town Gr 1 win this season as he has tremendous natural speed and the ability to kick, so the minimum trip on this tough track should suit him down to the ground. He is also having his third run after a year long layoff, so should be cherry ripe.
A horse that has been prepared for this race from day one of the season is the Justin Snaith Daring Dave and he is drawn one over a trip he should love, judging by his handy style of running. He could offer fair value.
The Gauteng raider Trip Tease has a huge heart and the winning habit, having won nine of his last ten races and he could be well drawn in four over his favourite trip. This is the toughest field he has faced but he keeps on defying the handicapper and is the third highest rated horse in the race behind Copper Parade and Captain Of All.
The five-year-old mare Fly By Night beat Copper Parade in last year’s Gr 1 wfa Mercury Sprint over 1200m and has come into her own this season, although she will prefer a quicker pace than she got when finishing third in the Diadem.
The three-year-old Alboran Sea can quicken off a good pace, as she did when winning the Gr 1 Allan Robertson, and her trainer Mike de Kock gives her a ‘massive” chance.
Carry On Alice beat the boys at Gr 1 level in the SA Nursery and also has a terrific turn of foot so she should be right there too.
Happy Forever ran fifth in both the Computaform and Mercury Sprints, and is a front-running type whom the opposition will be wary of.
Tevez has a terrific turn of foot and finished third last year, although this year’s event has more strength in depth. He will be at his best behind a strong pace, Asstar beat Daring Dave, Happy Forever and Tevez over course and distance back in October, a fine feat for a three-year-old, and has earned his place in the field.
Castlethorpe is tough and honest, although he stays further and will need a very strong pace to be able to produce a late burst. Dressed In Cotton looks the only horse who will be outgunned.
The Cape Flying Championship should be a thriller and is a race not to be missed.
Howells in top form
PUBLISHED: January 19, 2015
It was the annual Michael Roberts race day at Scottsville yesterday and the great jockey named the races this year after owners he was best associated with.
KZN champion trainer Duncan Howells was in dominant form yet again in a KZN turf meeting and completed a treble on the day, including winning the Listed Michael Roberts Handicap over 1750m with the enigmatic five-year-old Australian-bred Rock Of Gibraltar gelding Royal ZuluGuard, who was ridden by Muzi Yeni.
Yeni placed the talented Roy Moodley-owned horse well from a good draw and set him alight early in the straight from where he ran on strongly down the inside part of the straight to win by a comfortable 1,75 lengths.
Yeni has now won this race four times, which was one more than Roberts achieved in his own race as a rider, although Roberts has also won it twice as a trainer.
The well backed favourite Tiger’s Retreat, who was raiding from Johannesburg, followed the pacemaker King Neptune and looked poised to strike, but he found little and finished fifth. The Alistair Gordon-trained Joshuas Crown ran on well for second and was followed by King Neptune and Auction King.
The racemeeting coincided with Roberts’s 38th wedding anniversary and he thanked his wife Verna and his family for all of their support in a speech after the main race. He was introduced by “Mr KZN Racing” Bill Lambert, who was celebrating his birthday.
Summerhill Stud-based stalliion Visionaire got off the mark with his first local crop when his daughter, the Glen Kotzen-trained Royal Pleasure,
showed speed throughout in the first race, the Cyril Hurwitz Maiden Juvenile Plate over 1000m. She kicked on to win in impressive style by 6,75 lengths under 2,5kg claimer Callan Murray. She was bred by Barry Irwin’s Team Valor International and is owned by the well known bloodstock agent Andy Williams in partnership with KZN’s face of racing youth, the Box 3A syndicate, as well as Kotzen’s mother-in-law Judy Wintle.
Roberts fittingly trained the winner of the second race, the Mr and Mrs Oppenheimer Graduation Plate over 1200m, with the impressive little Jay Peg three-year-old filly Genial, who was ridden by Keagan de Melo. She beat the boys in emphatic fashion to remain unbeaten, so looks to have a bright future.
The third race, the Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II Maiden Plate over 1400m, was won by the Robbie Hill-trained Glinka under Luyolo Mxothwa. The St. Petersburg colt just got the better of Roy’s Selvan.
There was a thrilling head-bobbing finish in the fourth race, the Lord Carnarvon Maiden Plate over 1400m for fillies and mares, and it was the Duncan Howells-trained three-year-old Silvano filly Silver Inspiration who got her nose down at the right time under Stuart Randolph to deny the Glen Puller-trained Call Me Maybe.
Howells, Randolph and Silvano then scored a quick double as the favourite, the three-year-old gelding Hunting Owl, finally got going and just got up in time to deny the second favourite Escovitch.
The sixth race, the Sheik Mohammed Al Maktoum MR 72 Handicap, was a competitive event over 2400m and it was the Des Egdes-trained six-year-old Modern Day gelding Modern Spot who was produced with a well-timed effort by Ian Sturgeon to beat the favourite Jay Power by two lengths.
Husband and wife combination Alec and Lezeanne Forbes combined to win the eighth, the Sheik Ahmed Al Maktoum MR 78 Handicap over 1600m, with the promising Silvano gelding Run Rhino Run, who remained unbeaten after two starts. Jockey Alec “really rates” this horse, while trainer Lezeanne said the horse was still learning, so they were placing him carefully at present. Owner John Jones donates a portion of all this horse’s winnings to the “Save The Rhino” fund, so it is fitting that he has turned out to be talented.
The meeting was rounded off by the Mike Miller-trained AP Arrow filly Feels Like Heaven, who under a driving ride by Sean Veale just got up in the Katsumi Yoshida MR 70 Handicap over 1600m for fillies and mares to deny the Howells-trained Popular Blues. This was a meritorious win as it was her first time out the maidens off a merit rating of 78, having won her maiden at the 11th rime of asking by 5.75 lengths over 1950m.
Khathi excels in Kenya
PUBLISHED: January 19, 2015
Robert Khathi and Sihle Cele took Kenya racing by storm at Ngong yesterday when the Nairobi racecourse saw its biggest crowd for 15 years.
Khathi, who had ridden there only once before, won both the Phumelela International Cup and the Gold Circle Tray and he was at the centre of a controversy in the Kenya Guineas.
He led a furlong out on the Wilgerbosdrift-bred Hunting Call in the opening Phumelela race and he produced Mama Mia at exactly the right moment in the Gold Circle event. But this should have been JP van der Merwe’s mount.
Khathi explained: “I travelled from Cape Town and was expecting to meet up with JP in Joburg but apparently he didn’t realise that you have to check in two hours beforehand – and they wouldn’t let him on the plane.”
Khathi had his own share of misfortune in the Britam Kenya Guineas when his mount, the strongly fancied Ashaawes colt Wesasha, was scratched at the start on the orders of the starter. Khathi reckoned he was too hasty and complained to the stipes.
He said: “The horse backed out and, when he did it a second time, I asked them to put a hood on. They said no, he was withdrawn. Two chances was all he got. I’ve never seen anything like that anywhere else.”
But acting senior steward Nigel Hunter said: “Robert used abusive language and we are going to ask the South African authorities to take action against him.”
Khathi was not part of the South African team which failed to win the jockeys international but went close – beaten only by Zimbabwe – thanks to a Sihle Cele double.
South African bred horses also flew the flag, notably the Dynasty mare Shufti who led throughout the two miles of the Britam Gold Cup. The Bosworth Farm product is over four months pregnant yet she smashed the course record.
- Michael Clower began his journalistic career as racing correspondent of the East African Standard and rode as an amateur against the professionals at Ngong.