Stakes cuts in Cape Town begin with the Matchem and Diana Stakes at Durbanville on Saturday week when each of these Grade 3 races will be run for R200 000, R50 000 less than last year.
They had both been R250 000 races since 2014 when the Matchem was upped from R200 000 and the Diana from R150 000. Neither race is sponsored for the first time in three years.
The sahorseracing.co.za website reveals the cuts in Grade 2 and Grade 3 races to the end of November, with the forward programme being amended to show the Western Cape Fillies Championship, Cape Merchants and Concorde Cup (all Grade 2) having been reduced from R400 000 to R350 000 while the value of the Grade 3 Cape Classic will be dropped by R50 000 to R200 000.
However the programme does not yet show the races for December and January when the Group 1s will be run – including the showpiece Sun Met whose value was upped from R2.5 million to R5 million in 2017.
Phumelela racing executive Patrick Davies stressed on Monday that the cuts will fall across the country (or, to be more accurate, in the jurisdictions in which the company is responsible for stakes), and added that he is discussing the situation with the various Racing Association regional chapters. Phumelela plans to make a detailed announcement once this has been done.
The sahorseracing website indicates that the values of ordinary handicaps and maidens are unaffected by the cuts – at least so far as the end of November – but Davies pointed out that the programme was drafted some time ago. He didn’t specifically say so but seemingly it would be unwise to assume that these races will necessarily continue at the same level.
The cuts have been caused by falling betting revenues which, in turn, are believed to be mainly the result of the weak South African economy.
This year’s Matchem, won in the past decade by subsequent L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate winners Variety Club and Capetown Noir and 12 months ago by Rainbow Bridge en route to landing the Sun Met, has again attracted a quality entry.
Vaughan Marshall says he will probably run both Cape Guineas winner Tap O’Noth and prolific scorer One World while Joey Ramsden, successful with Variety Club and Act Of War, has nominated Twist Of Fate (winner of the Cape Classic and KRA Guineas, and second in the Cape Guineas).
Brett Crawford, who won with Captain America three years ago, has three entered and said: “They are due to gallop on Thursday but it is more than likely that Undercover Agent and Search Party will run.”
Crawford will also gallop Front And Centre tomorrow before deciding whether last season’s WSB Cape Fillies Guineas winner begins her campaign in the Diana. Surprisingly Crawford has yet to win this race.
Candice Bass-Robinson has the biggest Diana entry with six and said: “Freedom Charter, Star Fighter and Lesedi La Rona will all run. I will decide about the other three (Santa Clara, Nastergal and Intothelimelight) nearer the time because they are all drawn in the bush.”
Dean Kannemeyer, successful woth Roman Charger in 2001 as well as with Capetown Noir six years ago, has nominated five for the Matchem including his Umkhomazi winner African Warrior and the highly regarded Seventh Gear who runs in this Saturday’s Tellytrack.com Handicap.
Kannemeyer said: “I believe my three-year-old crop is much stronger than last year’s but I am trying to box smartly with them and I need to place them well to get them where I want them.”
This Saturday’s Listed Settlers Trophy is unaffected by the cuts with stakes remaining at last year’s R150 000 level but the distance has been shortened from 2 400m to 2 000m. Elusive Silva (Louis Mxothwa), third in last year’s Vodacom Durban July, shoulders 60kg top weight in the nine-strong field which also includes the Geoff Woodruff-trained Winter Derby winner Dharma (Anthony Andrews).
Last season’s Computaform Sprint winner Pacific Trader is the star name in the 1 000m Interbet.co.za Pinnacle Stakes with Corne Orffer facing the by no means straightforward task of tacking his way over from pen eight in a field of 12.
By Michael Clower