A keenly anticipated showdown between the three-year-old “Queens” of the north and south is off. Cape Town’s dual-Guineas winner Captain’s Ransom was not among the declared runners for the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000 when the final field was unveiled on Monday.
This leaves the Joburg Triple Tiara hero War Of Athena alone at the top of the betting boards for Saturday’s big fillies race at Greyville.
By contrast, the Daily News 2000 for colts at the same meeting will see a compelling “grudge” race between the two Cape colts Linebacker and Kommetdieding.
The Woolavington cut down to just seven runners, with possible challengers being put off by the prospect of a thumping from a couple of the best horses in the country.
Nonetheless, it is still a pretty strong line-up of young girls, with the likes of Netta and Princess Calla likely to attract support from punters who like to take on a hot favourite. Indeed, the latter has drawn plenty of apparently shrewd money this week.
Netta and Princess Calla – along with shoo-in War Of Athena – are Durban July hopefuls and will be aiming to boost their chances of making the final field for the country’s biggest race on 3 July. Captain’s Ransom was also an early July nomination but was withdrawn a couple of weeks ago.
Captain’s Ransom’s trainer, Justin Snaith, has said the 1600m Grade 1 Garden Province Stakes, a weight-for-age event on July day is his filly’s primary target and he might have felt a tough 2000m bunfight beforehand could take the edge off her.
The Woolavington is, however, a key race when judging for the Equus Filly of the Year takes place – a choice that is probably down to Captain’s Ransom and War Of Athena. One route for the former to force her way back into contention – and warm-up for the Garden Province – would be via the 1600m Gold Challenge on 12 June.
What is clear is that Snaith is set on keeping his star to 1600m races for the time being.
Saturday’s companion piece, the Daily News 2000, is better subscribed than the Woolavington with 12 three-year-old colts, many of them still desperate for a July call-up.
Linebacker claimed victory in the WSB Guineas a few weeks ago, downing the previously unbeaten Kommetdieding after the latter suffered a rough passage.
Daily News 2000:
9-2 Second Base
11-1 Russian Rock, Rascallion, The Gatekeeper, Copper Mountain
25-1 and upwards the others
11-10 War Of Athena
14-10 Princess Calla
12-1 and upwards the others
Daily News (Grade 1) 2000m R750,000 (draw, name, weight, MR, jockey, trainer:
1 Russian Rock 60 119 (Keagan de Melo) Dean Kannemeyer
2 Dr Doolittle 60 108 (Muzi Yeni) Paul Peter
3 Rascallion 60 111 (Sean Veale) Vaughan Marshall
4 Flying Carpet 60 108 (Luke Ferraris) Sean Tarry
5 Shah Akbar 60 108 (Lyle Hewitson) Sean Tarry
6 Linebacker 60 124 (Grant van Niekerk) Vaughan Marshall
7 Second Base 60 122 (Warren Kennedy) JA Janse van Vuuren
8 Kommetdieding 60 120 (Sihle Cele) HWJ Crawford/M Rix
9 The Gatekeeper 60 110 (Richard Fourie) Justin Snaith
10 Copper Mountain 60 121 (Gavin Lerena) JA Janse van Vuuren
11 Full Blast 60 86 (Serino Moodley) Michael Miller
12 Infinite Wonder 60 92 (Ryan Munger) Ashley Fortune
Woolavington (Grade 1) 2000m R500,000:
1 War Of Athena 60 122 (Muzi Yeni) Paul Matchett
2 Only The Brave 60 97 (Kabelo Matsunyane) Paul Matchett
3 Emerald Palace 60 91 (Raymond Danielson) Gareth van Zyl
4 Scented Mistress 60 91 (Luke Ferraris) Vaughan Marshall
5 Princess Calla 60 118 (Grant van Niekerk) Adam Marcus
6 Chat Ching 60 114 (Keagan de Melo) Candice Bass-Robinson
7 Netta 60 120 (Warren Kennedy) Paul Peter