There’s a lot of talk in racing circles about the exceptional quality of the current generation of three-year-olds and two smart examples bump heads in Race 6 on the Vaal Classic course on Tuesday.
Bartholdi and Namib Desert might not be in top rank of the “sophomore” class yet, but they have caught the eye in their first few career efforts and could yet develop into proper racehorses – as the latest parlance has it.
Bartholdi won second time out and was considered promising enough to throw into the deep end of the Tony Ruffel Stakes at Turffontein on January 2. He showed his inexperience in over-racing that day, but still finished within five lengths of the winner and emerging star Catch Twentytwo.
At the same race meeting, Namib Desert broke his maiden at his second try.
Come a showdown three weeks later, Bartholdi, with a smidgeon more competition experience, won from Namib Desert in a MR92 Handicap over 1500m on Turffontein’s Inside track.
The latter’s trainer, Paul Peter, was encouraged enough by that showing to pitch his gelding into the Gauteng Guineas, where current Triple Crown pretender Malmoos rather chewed him up.
The thing about three-year-olds is that they can show sudden improvement in a short space of time as they mature, so the likes of Bartholdi and Namib Desert will be fascinating to watch in coming months.
They renew their rivalry in a 1600m MR94 Handicap open to all ages and look set to fight out the finish again.
At this stage, one is inclined to side with Bartholdi – who recently switched to the Mike and Adam Azzie stables – as he proved superior last time. S’Mango Khumalo was the rider on that occasion and does duty again.
However, the extra 100m could play in Namib Desert’s favour and champion jockey Warren Kennedy will be on hand to ram home any apparent stamina advantage.
Two four-year-olds, Johnny Hero and Indy Go, front up the opposition.
A batch of emerging three-year-old fillies get to show their stuff in Race 7, an FM79 Handicap over 1600m, and look likely to split the prizes between them.
Trainer Candice Dawson saddles nicely bred Miracle And Wonder, who cracked a win at the third attempt last time out. That was a 1400m contest, following two orientation sprints, so the daughter of Captain Al looks primed to follow up here from an inside draw with Gavin Lerena in the irons.
Toto, from the Azzie yard, has more experience with eight outings under the belt. Her sole win came back in July last year and she lost her way a bit thereafter. However, she had excuses for some indifferent showings and appears to be coming to hand in this third start after a short break.
Lady Cavalera, trained by Phil Labuschagne at the Vaal, was a revelation when put over a bit more ground than in her two feet-finding runs. She doddled a 1450m workrider race by no less than eight lengths – suggesting she could be anything, in the old parlance.
Alec Laird-trained Pecan Pie is another on the cusp of rapid progress and should be included in all Trifectas and Quartets.
1 Siren Of Greece, 6 Way To Dream, 3 Destiny Rules, 7 Iced Tea
6 She’s A Cracker, 5 Dice The Bullet, 1 Curvation, 2 Nabeela
2 Zeal And Zest, 5 Brand New Cadillac, 6 Cash Time, 3 Barak
3 Ice Eater, 13 Alex The Great, 5 Marengo, 1 Galactic Warrior
6 Southern Charm, 7 Mind Reader, 9 Ulla, 8 May Queen
5 Bartholdi, 7 Namib Desert, 2 Johnny Hero, 1 Indy Go
5 Miracle And Wonder, 2 Toto, 4 Lady Calavera, 7 Pecan Pie
2 Ice Lord, 9 Sun Giant, 6 Cleveland, 7 Romeo’s Magic
2,3,4,5,6,9 x 1,5,13 x 6,7,8,9 x 5,7 x 2,5 x 2,6,9 (R864)
1,5,6 x 2,5,6 x 3,13 x 6,7 x 5 x 5 x 2,9 (R72)