Johan Janse van Vuuren has two of the most exciting fillies in the country in True To Life and Lady Of Steel and they will both be nominated for the same race, the Grade 3 Umzimkhulu Stakes over 1400m at Greyville on April 5, an event which is often used as a springboard to the Grade 2 Daisy Fillies Guineas on the first night of the SA Champions Season.
Both fillies won good races over the weekend.
Lady Of Steel is unbeaten in four starts from 1200m to 1600m and looks full of class.
On Saturday she finished as strongly as usual to win the Grade 3 Acacia Handicap over 1600m at Turffontein Standside by 2,25 lengths under Chase Maujean.
She ran off a merit rating of 98 and carried only 52,5kg but she did have to overcome a tough draw of 13.
She will continue to be trained out of Turffontein and her participation in the Umzimkhulu might depend on the draw she lands.
Janse van Vuuren is also considering a tilt at the Grade 1 HSH Prince Charlene Empress Club Stakes over 1600m at Turffontein on April 18.
True To Life has exceptional natural speed and she displayed this again on Sunday when easily winning a 1400m Pinnacle Stakes event on the Greyville turf.
She sat in second behind a slow pace and had soon quickened away from them and beat some useful KZN-based females, including Grade 1 winner Camphoratus, by 3,50 lengths without coming off the bit.
True To Life’s only defeat in five races over sprint distances was in the SA Fillies Nursery when a four length third to the outstanding Basadi Faith.
However, she has failed in both of her attempts at a mile, although both were at Grade 1 level.
Therefore, Janse van Vuuren will run her in the Umzimkhulu and decide from there whether she has another attempt at a mile in a race like the Grade 2 Daisy Fillies Guineas or whether she comes back down in trip for races like the Grade 1 SA Fillies Sprint.
True To Life was bred by the outstanding breeder Robin Bruss and is looking to have a bit in common with the Bruss-bred Equus Champion Sprinter Will Pays, who defied his breeding as his sire Imperial Stride won a Group 2 over a-mile-and-two-furlongs and a Group 3 over a mile-and-a-half and his dam Rattlebag won a Grade 3 over a mile and finished third in the Grade 2 Natal Oaks over 2400m.
Bruss always breeds a horse with the Vodacom Durban July and the Sun Met in mind. He said thus there had to be a combination of stamina and speed, with the latter required in order for the horse to have the necessary acceleration.
He added, “But in thoroughbred breeding, being what it is, you can end up with the opposite to what you intended.”
True To Life’s sire Duke Of Marmalade was a European champion, whose five consecutive Group 1 wins as a four-year-old were from a-mile-and-two-furlongs to a-mile-and-a-half.
Her dam Mina Salaam won a Zimbabwean Grade 3 over 2000m and a Listed race in South Africa over a mile and she has plenty of stamina in her pedigree.
Bruss believes there are two reasons why True To Life is doing so well over shorter trips.
Firstly, Duke Of Marmalade is by Danehill, whose only Group 1 win was over six furlongs and as one of the all-time great thoroughbred stallions he became a particularly exceptional speed influence.
Bruss knows True To Life well as he bought her back at the sales when not realising a good enough price and owned her for her first couple of runs before she was bought out of the Roy Magner yard by Janse van Vuuren’s chief owner Laurence Wernars.
He reckoned the second reason for her doing well over shorter trips to date is she weighs in at 550kg and as with humans it is difficult to carry heavy muscle over long trips.
However, he said with age she might indeed be able to stay the mile.
Sunday’s run was encouraging from that point of view as she had failed in her only previous attempt at that 1400m course and distance in the Grade 2 Golden Slipper.
Whichever route these two fillies go they should make headlines in the SA Champions Season as they both possess true class.
By David Thiselton