An exciting field will face the starter in Race 7 at Turffontein tomorrow night, a Pinnacle Stakes over 1160m.
The runners include the country’s most expensive horse Brutal Force, who Highveld racing fans will be seeing for the first time in the flesh, and Forest Indigo, a top-class but unsound individual who will be making his long-awaited comeback after a 20-month rest.
Add in smart feature-race winner Trip To Heaven, who is rated eight points superior to these rivals, and a couple of aging horses who had been battling to find top form but look certain to improve for being rested, The Hangman and Deliver The Power, and you have all the ingredients for a memorable contest.
The vote goes to Trip To Heaven, who has won four of his eight starts, including two feature races. The first was the Grade 2 Merchants over this course and distance on Summer Cup Day last year, when he beat One Man’s Dream by 1.50 lengths.
He went on to finish second to Trip Tease in the Lebelo Handicap over 1000m at Turffontein and was then thrown in at the deep-end after a rest in the Grade 1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m at Greyville in July.
Unsurprisingly he did not feature against that high quality of rival but he has made no mistakes in his two starts since, beating subsequent sales race winner Lineker and then downing subsequent Charity Mile winner Bouclette Top by 2.50 lengths in the Joburg Spring Challenge over 1450m on the inside track – a win for which he was hammered six points in the merit ratings.
While many horses coming back in distance sometimes need a sharpener, trainer Sean Tarry’s horses seem to be able to swop to shorter distances with no trouble at all and Trip To Heaven could justify the handicappers’ high opinion.
Cape trainer Joey Ramsden will be sending Brutal Force, a R4.5-million buy at the 2013 Ready To Run Sale, into battle for the first time at altitude but the over this distance the rarefied air should not affect him too much.
Brutal Force is a four-time winner from 12 career starts, the most recent in his second run this season when beating De Kock by a neck over 1200m at Scottsville in August. He has been a bit disappointing in the past but might be ready now as a four-year-old to start proving he is worth his purchase price.
Trainer Alec Laird will hold his breath throughout the race because this will determine whether he will persevere further with Forest Indigo. The five-year-old injured a hind leg between the Gauteng Guineas and a scheduled outing in the SA Classic last year and then did not make it back to competition a year ago because of a recurrence of the injury.
He has been given plenty of time and Laird is hoping he has toughened up enough to stand up to racing. He is working well and soundly, according to the Randjesfontein trainer.
Tarry-trained The Hangman, who ran fairly well in defeat is a couple of top middle-distance races earlier this year, reverts to a much shorter distance but might be fresh enough to place after a 129-day rest, while Deliver The Power is ideally suited to this course and distance and at best can be competitive in this sort of class.
Morpheus, Splendid Garden and Viking Hero could also be included in Quartets.