There were a lot of locals miffed at Mike de Kock referring to Greyville as a ‘go-cart’ track after Soqrat finished up fourth in the KRA Guineas but it was a performance way below what the Australian import is capable off and he did have excuses. A wide draw over the Greyville 1600m is always a concern but Santa Clara had shown in the KRA Fillies Guineas, a half-hour before, that it is not an unsurmountable obstacle.
However, one does need the cards to fall in your favour in a competitive race and Randal Simons’ decision to slot in behind and ending up way out of his ground instead of pushing forward from the draw may have cost him.
Whatever; you commit early and take your medicine.
Soqrat has a plum draw of four in the Gr1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge over the same course and distance tomorrow and victory will almost certainly see him garner an Equus award come season’s end.
Soqrat showed tremendous courage when fighting off the challenge of Cirillo in the Gr1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes and the Gr1 Cape Guineas winner was less than a length back to Do It Again in the Gr1 L’Ormarins Queens Plate, both races against older opposition.
He faces a similar task tomorrow in the face of what has stacked up into the strongest Rising Sun Gold Challenge field seen in the past decade.
Do It Again is again in opposition but this will be his first outing back since finishing second in the Sun Met at the end of January and although Justin Snaith has expressed confidence that his charge is close to his best, he will need to be sharp to win a race of this nature off a break.
Rainbow Bridge had to bend his knee to Do It Again in the Queens Plate but the favour was returned in the Sun Met, although Richard Fourie copped a fair amount of criticism for his handling of Do It Again.
This time around Rainbow Bridge has had a superb blow-out in the Drill Hall Stakes when under a length back to class act Undercover Agent and over the extra furlong, Eric Sands will be looking to turn the tables, or at least a sharp showing in the gelding’s build-up to the Vodacom Durban July.
Anton Marcus will be in the saddle for Rainbow Bridge and he was also aboard the gelding’s half-brother, and ruling VDJ ante-post favourite, Hawwaam, in the Gr1 Daily News 2000 last week.
Quizzed on who is likely to ride Hawwaam in the July, Mike de Kock was non-committal. “Speak to the king,” he shrugged. “He has a few balls in the air.”
The picture might be clearer come tomorrow evening.
But of the eight runners, New Caledonia can be regarded as the least likely winner with Cirillo, Lady In Black and course and distance specialist Matador Man all in the mix.
It should be a cracking race, possibly more a tactical battle than an out-and-out slog.
What could develop into a slog is the Gr3 Cup Trial, the traditional ‘last chance saloon’ for those hoping to make the July field. The last Vodacom Durban July log has pretty much cemented places for Eyes Wide Open (10) and Made To Conquer (11) on the list but Doublemint (17) is marginal and will be up against Roy Had Enough, Dark Moon Rising and Run Red, all still in the hunt for a place in the big race.
So, taking desperation into account, Doublemint may prove to be the safest bet but the trio of VDJ outsiders will be pressing hard.
Also, on the outside and looking in is Camphoratus, who takes on Oh Susanna in the Gr3 Tibouchina Stakes a half-hour later. First reserve on the VDJ log, she beat Oh Susanna in the Gr1 Empress Club Stakes in what was a major upset, but she followed up with a smart effort in the WSB 1900, finishing a length back to Eyes Wide Open. The seven-furlong Tibouchina is arguably on the short side but the 2200m of the VDJ may also prove beyond her compass which could sway the VDJ selection panel.
So it boils down to victory or bust for Robbie and Shannon Hill’s filly where Oh Susanna is rated some 6.5kg superior.
The three KZN Winter Series races, all long handicaps, will keep punters on their toes and with a number of exotic bet carryovers in the offing, there will be some tempting odds available.
By Andrew Harrison