Undercover Agent leads the charge

PUBLISHED: 01 October 2019

Undercover Agent (Candiese Marnewick)

Undercover Agent heads the 11 declared for the Matchem Stakes at Durbanville on Saturday and last year’s Rising Sun Gold Challenge winner is 14-10 favourite to give Brett Crawford his second Matchem win in four seasons. But Corne Orffer’s mount, the biggest money earner in the line-up with R5 million to his name, has to give weight all round.

One World, who beat Kasimir in a progress plate at this meeting last year en route to victory in the Concorde Cup and a CTS R5 million sales race, is second in the betting at 5-2. The Dean Kannemeyer-trained Umkhomazi winner African Warrior, drawn on the wide outside and quoted at 11-2, is the only other priced at less than 12-1. Keagan de Melo’s mount bids to become the first three-year-old to take the Matchem since the mighty Variety Club eight years ago.

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

There has not been a bigger field for this race since Joshua’s Dream accounted for 12 others back in 2007 but Twist Of Fate and Tap O’Noth are notable absentees.

Front And Centre is odds-on at 7-10 to initiate a notable Grade 3 double for the in-form Crawford stable in the Diana Stakes and, although she also has to shoulder 60kg, recent history is on her side as favourites have won four of the last six runnings.

Dynamic Diana is the shortest priced of the other nine at 7-1 to give Richard Fourie his first Diana victory and Justin Snaith his fourth.

Quintay, who has cost punters dear in his last two starts, tries again in the opening maiden with Greg Cheyne riding for the first time – and Adam Marcus is optimistic that the grey will return to the form he showed when a close second on his first two outings.

Marcus explained: “The ground was very heavy on his third run (August 13 when he was odds-on) and Warren Kennedy said the horse wasn’t happy on it, even going down to the start. Last time (September 4 with Kennedy again in the irons) he was drawn wide and couldn’t get cover.”

Incidentally Marcus reports that Brave Move – winner of six consecutive races last year including the Ladies Mile and the Final Fling – has been retired to James Armitage’s Sandown Stud where she was bred and will be covered by What A Winter.

The jockeys race, such a popular feature in recent years, will again be run over 50m after the last on Saturday and local jockeys chairman M.J. Byleveld is confident that there will be no repeat of the rule-breaking that turned the event into a farce both last year and the year before.

Although pointing out that he has little involvement in the organisation this time, he indicated that Richard Fourie and Anthony Andrews are two likely to take advantage of the absence of Aldo Domeyer who was unbeatable in this event and recently took the Hong Kong equivalent.

The Barn Market, missing from recent Durbanville meetings, will be back on Saturday with around 100 stalls including five devoted to food.

Going back to last Saturday, Kannemeyer’s hopes for Seventh Gear remain high even though the R4.75 million purchase was beaten into third behind Path Of Choice – admittedly giving the winner 4.5kg.

Kannemeyer said: “Things didn’t really go his way up the straight on Saturday and he didn’t get a clear run but he is a big brute of a horse and this will have tightened him up and brought him on. I don’t want to make excuses but I would love to have got another gallop into him because he was blowing a bit afterwards. He is a horse of potential.”

By Michael Clower