No secrets with Undercover Agent

PUBLISHED: 24 May 2019

Undercover Agent (Candiese Lenferna)

Chimichuri Run, beaten favourite in the Gr1 Computaform Sprint, is at the top of the boards for tomorrow’s Gr1 Tsogo Sun Sprint. But 4-1 with Track & Ball doesn’t inspire any confidence and a better option could be the 11-2 about top weight Undercover Agent.

Brett Crawford, successful with Pacific Trader in the Computaform, is not short of ammunition for the Scottsville showpiece with four runners, three of which are accomplished sprinters.

Last year’s winner Bold Respect has been winless since although close up during the Cape summer. Search Party was under two lengths back to Pacific Trader in the Computaform and Sunset Eyes, who warmed up nicely in a Pinnacle Stakes, is carrying joint bottom weight.

That leaves top weight Undercover Agent. He is the class horse in the field but there are concerns in some quarters that 1200m may be on the sharp side given his recent form. He was far from disgraced in the Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and the Gr1 Sun Met but it may have been his class that carried him so close. Prior to those races, his last win was in a 1200m sprint at Kenilworth before warming up for tomorrow’s event with a game win over Rainbow Bridge in the Gr2 Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes over 1400m.

Undercover Agent (Candiese Marnewick)
Undercover Agent (Candiese Marnewick)

The testing Scottsville straight has found out many a good speed horse but suits a galloper with speed and a touch of stamina, a perfect profile for Undercover Agent.

Stable rider Corne Orffer, whether out of sentiment or choice, has stayed with Undercover Agent which is a further tick in the right box.

The balance of the field is evenly matched. The grey Mardi Gras appears to have had the ideal preparation. After running up a hat-trick of wins, he was given a short break by Johan Janse van Vuuren. His warm-up was at Greyville earlier this month where he gave away lumps of weight and he should strip at his peak.

Last year’s winner Bold Respect is handily weighted and carries only 1kg more than last year with the added advantage of Anton Marcus in the saddle.  He boasts solid Cape summer form so will have many supporters.

It is not surprising that Chimichiri Run is at the top of the boards given his recent record and cannot be left out of any calculations while fellow three-year-old Palace Chapel looks fair each-way value at 20-1.

The three other Gr1 sprints are equally difficult. Snowdance is a luke-warm ante-post favourite for the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint. Justin Snaith has specifically targeted this race, believing that she is more of a sprinter than a ‘miler’. Like Undercover Agent, her stamina will come into play and she could land the odds.

She is up against last year’s Allan Robertson Championship winner Mighty High and recent Camelot Stakes winner Schippers. The two met recently in the Camelot Stakes with Schippers running out a comfortable winner. Schippers got a hefty shunt up the handicap for that win but they meet on almost identical terms here so Geoff Woodruff’s runner can confirm that form.

The Juvenile races are a completely different kettle of fish. With young horses maturing at different rates and full fields of 16 runners lining up in both the Gr1 Tsogo Sun Gold Medallion and the Gr1 Allan Robertson, it is something of a guessing game.

The unbeaten SA Fillies Nursery winner Basadi Faith will have her supporters in the Allan Robertson but she was hard pressed to hold on to her lead that day as Cavivar challenge hard. The extra 100m on the Scottsville track could find out Basadi Faith but they may all have to get to Travelling Light. Garth Puller, a multiple Gr1 winner as a jockey, has yet to repeat as a trainer but in Travelling Light he has a lively contender. She cruised home on debut beating the well-regarded Talia Al Ghul by nearly five lengths with the balance of the field a further five lengths back.

Owner Dave MacLean has four runners engaged in the Gold Medallion, all four in with chances. Recent Highveld awards winner Frosted Gold from the Mike de Kock yard is at the top of the boards but MacLean has three smart runners from the Duncan Howells yard which gives him a strong hand.

Dennis Drier bids for an unprecedented seventh win in this race over the past decade and pins his hopes on Cartel Captain and Master Of Illusion. The former may prove the pick which brings African Warrior and High Voltage into the picture.

In all, this will be a fascination day’s entertainment and a highlight of Champions Season.

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By Andrew Harrison