Vistula and Front And Centre put their hands up over the weekend as horses to follow in top female mile races this season, although the latter will be just as effective over further.
Waiting in the wings is their contemporary Celtic Sea, last season’s Equus Champion three-year-old, who was given a deserved break after her busy winter campaign and won’t be seen out for a while.
Trainer Paul Peter had Vistula at 100% for Saturdays Grade 2 Spring Fillies and Mares Challenge over 1450m on Turffontein Inside. He was confident of her chances knowing she had been at just 70% for her seasonal reappearance in which she routed the opposition in a Pinnacle Stakes event over 1400m on Turffontein Standside.
Her draw of eleven was a concern but Warren Kennedy delivered again when managing to slot her in to sixth place with cover as Sidonie, having just her second career run, set good fractions in front.
Vistula’s supporters would have been confident knowing what a fine turn of foot the Ideal World filly has.
However, the talented three-year-old Gin Fizz relished the fast pace and step up in trip and was clearly going to take some catching after sitting in second place in the running and then hitting the front.
But Vistula, making her run down the inside, showed she also has a big heart when fetching Gin Fizz in the last couple of strides to win by a quarter of a length.
Perfect Tigress ran on well for third and is another to follow.
Peter said Vistula’s class had pulled her through and reckoned she would come on from the run, it being her second run after a layoff.
She will now be targeted at the Grade 2 Ipi Tombe Stakes over 1600m on Gauteng Summer Cup day.
However, her main aim is to win a Grade 1. Peter said they would avoid the Majorca in Cape Town and instead target the Empress Club Stakes at Turffontein in April.
Gin Fizz is also bred to go further being by miler Soft Falling Rain out of Espumanti, who won the Ipi Tombe and the Grade 2 Betting World 1900.
Gin Fizz inherited some of her mother’s temperamental issues, but horse whisperer Malan Du Toit helped her get to the races last season. On Saturday she pulled momentarily after using her natural speed to get into the leading line. However, Sidonie then did her a favour by taking the lead and going at a brisk gallop, which gave Gin Fizz cover and allowed her to stride out.
Gin Fizz looks to be a lively classic contender in the mile races at least.
Down in Cape Town Front And Centre’s performance to win the Grade 3 Diana Stakes over 1400m at Durbanville was even more impressive than Vistula’s as she carried a Grade 1 penalty. Greg Cheyne had the Brett Crawford-trained Dynasty filly in the box seat but in the straight she appeared to be battling to get on terms with the pacemaker Helen’s Ideal.
However, this was deceptive because when Freedom Charter ranged up dangerously on her outside she took off and won cosily in the end by half-a-length. She showed none of the hanging-to-the-right antics which had cost her the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000.
She will likely be targeted at the Grade 1 Cartier Paddock Stakes over 1800m and either the Grade 1 Bidvest Majorca or the Sun Met. Meanwhile, Captain Al filly Celtic Sea, winner of the Grade 1 SA Fillies Sprint and the Grade 1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes, might raid for the Majorca on Sun Met day. Tarry reckoned that was the only realistic race for her down in Cape Town.
By David Thiselton