Justin Snaith, still basking in the glory of back-to-back Vodacom Durban July wins with Do It Again, saddles three proven stayers in tomorrow’s Gr3 eLan Gold Cup and although Do It Again will not emulate Space Walk’s July and Gold Cup double some three decades back, he has other strings to his bow.
Snaith has given Strathdon the somewhat dubious nick-name of ‘Matthew Lips’ after one of the NHA’s senior handicappers, pointing out that Strathdon has not won a race for nearly two years, his last win coming in an eight-horse race off a merit rating of 87. He now has a rating of 101 without having won a race since, a situation that riles Snaith every time the subject is brought up.
Strathdon has paid for his consistency but stable rider Richard Fourie has stuck with the gelding which speaks volumes.
Snaith was fairly bullish of Doublemint’s chances in the VDJ where he was heavily supported in the market, in from 28-1 to start 13-1 on the day. He was only four lengths back to Do It Again but runs like a horse that is looking for today’s trip and has a pedigree that suggests that he will be at home over the extra. In Anton Marcus he has a jockey who knows exactly what is required and this could be Snaith’s parting shot.
Frank Robinson has turned to currently Mauritius-based Piere Strydom to partner top weight Roy Had Enough. The colt ran an excellent race in the VDJ, beaten less than three lengths but it was possibly telling that Marcus, who partnered the colt in the Track & Ball Derby, suggested the Gold Cup rather than the July after that win.
With Track & Ball offering 5-1 and better the field there is plenty of opportunity and Brett Crawford is responsible for the 10-1 chance Gimme One Night who was a cracking second to Shenanigans in the Betting World 2200 on July day. Crawford has brought him on slowly leading into this event. He stays well, has a good draw and a handy weight which ticks many of the boxes.
There are plenty of others in with chances but Doublemint gets the nod ahead of stable companion Strathdon with Gimme One Night having the ideal prep.
One of the highlights of the afternoon will be the clash between VDJ runner-up Rainbow Bridge and the progressive Buffalo Bill Cody in the Gr1 Champions Cup.
Rainbow Bridge has done little wrong for Eric Sands except win this winter and rounding off his season with a Gr1 victory would be fitting.
With Hawwaam being scratched at the start of the VDJ, punters were denied the opportunity of seeing possibly the country’s best three-year-old perform against his elders but stable companion Buffalo Bill Cody has only once tasted defeat and cruised to a comfortable victory over the smart Cirilo in his only start this year.
Off the track for close on eight months with a virus is not ideal but Mike de Kock is a master of his trade and the match-up between two top horses is a mouth-watering prospect.
There are three other Gr1 races on the card, The Mercury sprint possibly an Equus Award decider in the sprint category and the two Gr1’s for Juveniles, the Premiers Champion Stakes and the Thekhwini Stakes for fillies are both hotly contested affairs.
A win for recent Gr2 Golden Slipper winner Eden Roc will cement his place at the top of the pile for two-year-old males but the filly’s category is not cut-and-dried with many of the leading candidates having coffin draws next Saturday.
By Andrew Harrison