Rainbow Bridge makes his long-awaited debut in KZN when he runs in The Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes (Gr2) at Greyville this evening. Eric Sands is using this race as the gelding’s warm-up for Champions Season and ultimately a crack at the Vodacom Durban July while a couple of hours before, Justin Snaith will put Do It Again and Made To Conquer, first and second respectively in last year’s July, through their paces, also over 1400m.
Sands has already warned that Rainbow Bridge has a couple of obstacles to negotiate, namely this being his first run under lights, first time around a right-handed turn and a lay-off since beating Do It Again in the Sun Met.
With the July in mind, Rainbow Bridge will obviously not be anywhere near his peak at this stage of his preparation but he is a class act, has won over the distance and racing fresh should at least see him running at them late.
Undercover Agent, not a July entry but arguably over his best trip, has finished behind Rainbow Bridge in his last two starts, namely the L’Ormarins Queens Plate and the Sun Met, prompting bookmakers to have him at the top of their boards in the ante-post market.
However, Rainbow Bridge may have most to fear from the three-year-old Cirillo. Sean Tarry’s colt turned in a tremendous performance when going down late to hot favourite and Cape Guineas winner Soqrat in the dying strides of the HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes. That was a tremendous front-running performance and those tactics could pay dividends this evening.
It is difficult to nail one’s colours to the mast with any degree of certainty in races of this nature where many of the top runners are warming up for the bigger races in the next three months but a win for Rainbow Bridge will surely enhance his July chances.
The Drill Hall Stakes along with the Gr2 KRA Guineas and KRA Fillies Guineas are the traditional Champion Season openers and this year the card has been boosted by the addition of a host of minor features that were due to be run at a washed-out Scottsville meeting last Sunday.
The eight features are supported by the ‘No Whips’ first race where the jockeys have, for some reason cried off, forcing officials to replace them with apprentices, and the 400m Dash that closes the meeting.
The ruling favourites for the two Guineas races, namely Cape Fillies Guineas winner Front And Centre and Cape Guineas winner Soqrat, have both drawn wide in their respective races which leaves the door ajar for their rivals.
Front And Centre jumps from the extreme outside gate in the Fillies Guineas, usually a coffin draw over the Greyville 1600m. However, Anton Marcus is never shy to push forward, be it maidens or Graded features. He is a master of the quick start so one can expect Front And Centre to be right up there before the turn but given her draw, she will need to be a length or two better than some smart opposition if she is to pull this one off.
With the likely defection of reserve runner Mazari, Nayfaayes has pulled the plum pole-position gate, always an advantage, and Mike de Kock’s filly has some smart Highveld form to commend her, having not finished out of the money in her eight starts.
Of the balance, Silvano’s Pride was unable to overcome a wide draw in her last start and has again drawn wide as has Santa Clara, runner-up to Temple Grafin in the Umzimkulu Stakes where she was drawn on off the fence.
Marcus rode a particularly good race on Temple Grafin that afternoon and Greg Cheyne will need a repeat performance to get her home here.
Mike de Kock will have shrugged his shoulder in despair as Soqrat drew 13 for the KRA Guineas but the Australian-bred is no stranger to Greyville and boasts some cracking form in the top tier. He ran Do It Again to a neck in the L’Ormarins Queens Plate and was tremendously game when getting the better of Cirillo in the Horse Chestnut. This will be his third run after a break and he should strip extremely fit which will allow Randal Simons a little licence.
National Park, the only horse to beat Hawwaam, should be a major force over this Greyville mile and it may prove prudent to draw a line through his SA Classic run where he did not appear to see out the extra furlong.
Joey Ramsden looks certain to be lost of SA racing as he prepares to leave for Singapore and Twist Of Fate, second to Soqrat in the Cape Guineas, could provide a fitting sent-off.
Charles and Bunker Hunt, separated by two lengths in the Cape Derby, are both Vodacom Durban July entries so their performances will be watched with interest while local hopes will rest with Tristful and Thanksgiving who could well up their games.
By Andrew Harrison