Horses / Horse News
The thrills keep coming in a coronavirus-congested season. This weekend Scottsville’s annual speed day runs alongside the UK’s venerable Epsom Derby and Oaks, while bullets will fly in Durban July Last Chance Saloon gunfights.
The “festival of fast” in Pietermaritzburg is one of the great events of South African racing, with a Jackpot of Grade 1 sprints attracting most of the fastest horses in the land and the cream of its two-year-old emerging stars.
Dennis Drier’s name immediately comes to mind when this fixture is mentioned. The Summerveld trainer has won 10 of these 1200m sprints over the years, including six Gold Medallions and two SA Fillies Sprints in the last decade.
Drier is well armed to extend his record in the former event – nowadays called the Golden Horse Medallion (and way back the Smirnoff Plate) – with two runners, Tempting Fate and Pray For Rain.
This duo ran a one-two in the 1100m Godolphin Barb at Scottsville in mid-June, so are well acclimatised. That was Tempting Fate’s second visit to the races, after a Cape Town summer debut win, and stable jockey Sean Veale has opted for the colt over recently gelded Pray For Rain – a one-time winner from four who will be partnered by Athandiwe Mgudlwa.
The sometime low-number draw advantage up the Scottsville straight has been eliminated, say local officials, but die-hard punters suspect it’s still better to have an inside-rail gate. Tempting Fate is in No 12 and his stablemate N0 1.
The race is not just about Drier. The 28-10 hot favourite is Justin Snaith-trained Erik The Red, who goes for a fifth win on the trot after recently shipping up from Cape Town following impressive annexation of a 1200m feature at Kenilworth.
Another commanding attention is Mike de Kock-trained Al Muthana, an Australian import by Deep Field who trotted up on debut at the Vaal just two weeks ago.
The meeting’s nominal headline event is the Golden Horse Sprint, a weight-for-age contest once known as the Tsogo Sun Sprint (and the Gilbey’s Stakes in days of yore).
Five-year-old Kasimir, arguably the best sprinter in the country, is a 3-1 favourite but faces a tough task in carrying top-weight of 60kg against an array of three-year-olds hefting just 52kg and 53kg.
Notable among the latter are De Kock’s Frosted Gold and Sean Tarry’s Eden Roc, both horses who have done well over further than 1,200m and might be ideally suited to Scottsville’s testing uphill finish.
The Allan Robertson Championship, for juvenile fillies, is a blue-riband event for future broodmares, but is always a head-scratcher for punters with sudden improvement possible from any of the maturing youngsters.
In contrast, the “senior” female heat, the SA Fillies Sprint, shapes up as a two-horse race between Celtic Sea and Run For Fox.
Also on the Scottsville card is the Cup Trial, traditionally a last chance for Vodacom Durban July hopefuls to crack the final field. Ten of the 12 runners are still among the July entries but not on the final “likely log” for the big race, published on Thursday.
A win in this Grade 3 race is not an entry ticket to the 25 July epic but does get “special consideration” from the Gold Circle officials who dish out the invitations.
Any one of Born To Perform, Magnificent Seven, Roy’s Riveira, Herodotus, Nexus and Cat Daddy could squeeze into the reckoning with a commanding performance in the 1,750m showdown.
Another July last chance is on offer upcountry at Turffontein on Sunday, with the 1,800m Jubilee Handicap having the same status as the Cup Trial. The four July entries here are Divine Odyssey, one of five official “fringe” candidates, Alibi Guy, Leopold and DÁrrivee.
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