The story of Saturday’s Cape Derby at Kenilworth lost its folksy theme when hot favourite Kommetdieding was scratched on Thursday after injuring himself in his final preparatory gallop.
It’s still likely to be a ferocious contest, though, with very little to choose between the remaining runners in terms of exposed form.
New favourite for the Grade 1,200m classic is Justin Snaith-trained The Gatekeeper, who was quoted at 5-2 on Friday – with all of Rascallion, Linebacker, Russian Rock and Legitimate also attracting punting attention.
There was disappointment all round at the withdrawal of unbeaten Kommetdieding, who has become a firm fans’ favourite in Cape Town this summer after registering four wins in a row for his low-profile, humble connections.
Trainer Michelle Rix said the colt – a bargain purchase sired by working-class stallion Elusive Fort – had suffered a “superficial” overreach injury on his off-fore and the decision to pull out of the Jonsson Workwear Cape Derby had been reluctantly taken.
Rix added that plans to take Kommetdieding to KwaZulu-Natal for the winter season remained on track.
Many of the fancied three-year-olds still in the line-up did battle against each other in the Cape Guineas in December, but it’s not as easy as might be expected to take a clear form line from that race.
Russian Rock won the 1600m Guineas at 100-1, with a tremendous effort to get up on the line. However, all those finishing just behind Dean Kannemeyer’s horse that day were also rattling on and will benefit from the extra 400m of the Derby.
The Gatekeeper, for example, progressed from 13th position at the 400m mark to 5th place, just two lengths adrift of the winner. That showing and an earlier 1600m victory over star horse Golden Ducat have seen him ushered to the top of the betting boards.
Kannemeyer is in no doubt that Russian Rock will enjoy the Derby trip, along with his stable companion Legitimate, and experienced players will include this master endurance trainer’s duo in permutations.
Vaughan Marshall is another man impossible to ignore in this race, with his charge Linebacker having just been pipped into second in the Guineas and stablemate Rascallion another who bombed on from the rear to just miss the big money.
There are others in the 11-strong field who could surprise: it is a three-year-old affair, after all, and young horses can improve dramatically and unexpectedly.
One to keep an eye on is relatively unexposed Juan Carlos from the Adam Marcus yard, who has won once and run into trouble in his two subsequent outings. This guy is by the erstwhile British wonder horse Frankel, who is turning into a wonder stallion.
Cape Racing has put together a feature-rich card for the final meeting of its summer season, with the Grade 2 1200m Diadem Stakes offering yet another opportunity for punters to try and sift through the sprinting form of the country’s top speedsters.
There are also three Grade 3 and two Listed races – not to mention a rich sales race and a fun-looking work riders versus jockeys showdown in the lucky last.
2 Russian Rock, 4 Rascallion, 5 The Gatekeeper, 11 Juan Carlos
5-2 The Gatekeepr
5-1 Russian Rock
30-1 Crimson King
33-1 Juan Carlos
40-1 Dubai Lights
66-1 Fort Red