They have re-named the place, but some things don’t change down Algoa Bay way. Certain punters might be hesitant about trying to pronounce Gqeberha, but the names Greeff and Smith will trip off the tongue if one asks about the top dogs in Windy City horse racing.
It’s been that way for donkey’s years. Like their fathers before them, Alan Greeff and Gavin Smith are the powerhouses of PE.
Take the race card for Friday’s meeting at Fairview – or indeed any fixture at the pleasant rural venue. Almost every race has Greeff and/or Smith horses near the top of the betting boards.
In Friday’s Race 7, a Pinnacle Stakes for fillies and mares over 1400m, current Eastern Cape champion Greeff saddles half the field of 10 (and Smith, surprisingly, not one). Greeff’s horses fill five of the top six slots on the bookmakers’ boards.
The favourite at 9-2 is Flame Tree – ridden by No 1 stable jockey Greg Cheyne, suggesting this is the trainer’s pick of his bunch. Stablemates Golden Chance, Water Spirit, Princess Kalisi and Luna Wish range from 11-2 to 8-1. The indringer in the familial betting bouquet is Tara Laing-trained Sailing Ship at 13-2.
Flame Tree, a four-year-old filly owned by the Ridgemont operation, was recently transferred to Greeff from Brett Crawford in Cape Town, after striving for 489 days to register a third career win. She’s come close to the goal on a number of occasions, but seems to have hit some kind of ceiling in the Mother City.
Luckily, in another guise, Cheyne is also a stable rider for Crawford, so he has ridden Flame Tree many times and probably knows what’s needed to get her back into the winner’s box.
But it won’t be easy. Golden Chance, a five-year-old mare, is also a very consistent performer well overdue a third win. With her, the wait has been 667 days.
Water Spirit is another new arrival from Crawford. She isn’t as consistent as the aforementioned duo, but does have three victories from 14 outings, suggesting a dash of fighting spirit.
Laing has managed to get a third win out of Sailing Ship since the taking over the filly from Candice Bass-Robinson in October and she has a fair chance of thwarting the Greeff mob onslaught.
Elsewhere on the card, it is Smith who appears to hold the whip hand. Safari Blue in Race 1 and Miss Nibbles in Race 3 are nap bets, while Mojito Magic in Race 8 will also take a lot of beating.
6 Safari Blue, 2 Jean Paul, 3 Marsh Marigold, 5 Redoute’s Secret
7 Princess Of Fire, 6 Hawthorn, 3 Seeking Wisdom, 1 Calandra
1 Miss Nibbles, 2 All Things Nice, 9 Twice To Heaven, 3 Fearless Lady
5 Showtime Baby, 4 Rooibos, 3 Perfect Display, 9 Pearl Dancer
1 Dirty Martini, 3 Shades Of Blu, 13 Soorooq, 7 Global Klas
6 Moon Game, 2 Gold Rock, 1 Mio Grande, 3 Jackson Pollock
5 Flame Tree, 4 Golden Chance, 3 Sailing Ship, 7 Twin Falls
9 Mojito Magic, 10 Elegant General, 14 Pega D’Oro, 13 Deri
1 x 3,4,5 x 1,3 x 1,2,3,4,5,6,8 x 3,4,5 x 9,10,14 (R378)
6,7 x 1 x 4,5 x 1,3 x 1,2,6 x 5 x 9 (R24)