The Mike de Kock stable has no real leaning about which race talented three-year-old fillies Ektifaa and Orchid Island will go for – the R1-million Betting World Gauteng Guineas or the Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas on Saturday 5 March at Turffontein.
The two races form the first legs of the SA Triple Crown and the Wilgerbosdrift SA Triple Tiara respectively.
When questioned, De Kock’s son and assistant trainer Mathew said: “Maybe the three-year-old fillies are better than the colts in Johannesburg at the moment and I believe Ektifaa will be competitive in either race.”
Ektifaa posted her fourth win in a row in the Grade 3 Tony Ruffel Stakes over 1450m last weekend.
“She’s proven now in this class,” he said. “Obviously she must be the main one to beat in either race – besides Safe Harbour (who is higher rated in the Fillies Guineas).”
Ektifaa did not draw well, pulling No 17 in the colts’ classic and No 19 in the fillies’ race.
“The draw will make our decision about which race to run her in even harder,” he confirmed. “It’ll also be her first time trying a ‘mile’, which is a bit of a concern because she seems to have a lot of speed. It’s more than likely she will not go for the second leg, no matter what.”
Orchid Island drew Nos 9 and 13 respectively in the colts’ and fillies’ races and the form of her win over Furiosa in the Sea Cottage Stakes last month was franked when Sean Tarry’s runner won an 1800m handicap last weekend, “so the form is standing up well”.
The De Kock team could have three other runners in the race, Heavenly Blue, Janoobi and Daffiq.
“Heavenly Blue can’t buy a draw,” said De Kock. “He was drawn 15 out of 16 in the Cape Guineas and drew widest of all for the Gauteng Guineas. But I’m not too concerned because now he’s maturing it looks like even a ‘mile’ is too short for him. We’ll be using this race as a prep for the SA Classic and SA Derby. The 1800m and 2450m of those races will be right up his alley.
“Janoobi is nicely drawn and he’s got to be very competitive in the Guineas. He ran a big race from a very bad draw in the CTS 1600 on Met Day and enjoys the distance. Piere Strydom will ride.
“Daffiq is a smart horse – we rate him as good as our other colts – and he’s drawn nicely. Forget about his last run because he came back after the race carrying his head on the floor and was full of mucus the next day.”
If Ektifaa and Orchid Island go for the Guineas, De Kock will still have a good hand in the fillies’ equivalent, with Al Hawraa and Belle Rose likely to run.
Al Hawraa ran sixth behind Anna Pavlova in the Three Troika Stakes last Saturday and De Kock believes she has enough improvement to come.
“She came from the back of the field and was only beaten two lengths,” he said. “She will be much fitter and more suited to the ‘mile’, so should get a lot closer to the likes of Anna Pavlova and Visuality (winner and runner-up). Plus, she’s drawn nicely.”
Anna Pavlova drew at No 20 for the Fillies Guineas, while Visuality fared even worse in the ballot for barrier positions at No 23, while the third, fourth and fifth horses, Last Chirp, Pool Party and Elusive Strike, will jump from good barriers if they run.
De Kock confirmed Belle Rose is “more a Classic and Oaks filly” but says the stable intends to take a chance in the Fillies Guineas.
There are two other De Kock fillies entered, but much will depend on their runs in a FM 81 Handicap over 1600m at Turffontein on Saturday.