Nicci Garner
4 minute read
19 Apr 2017
10:58 am

Strong field set to challenge for Empress Club Stakes

Nicci Garner

Star Express’ draw bothers Justin Snaith.

WELL WEIGHTED. Safe Harbour is the best handicapped runner in Saturday’s R1-million HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes (Grade 1) over 1600m at Turffontein.

Three horses stand out in this Saturday’s HSH Princess Charlene Em­press Club Stakes (Grade 1) over 1600m at Turf­fontein – top-rated Safe Harbour, Fort Ember and Cape raider Star Express.

Ultra-classy Safe Harbour is one of five runners from the Sean Tarry stable and her trainer ad­mits she must be the stable elect.

The three-year-old was beaten only a neck by Orchid Island in the SA Fillies Classic over 1800m. She is drawn at No 7 in the 16-horse field and will carry 2.5kg less than her two main rivals.

Fort Ember is a five-time win­ner who finished fifth behind Legal Eagle in the recent Horse Chestnut Stakes (Grade 1) over 1600m. Trainer Paul Peter be­lieves the horse to beat is Safe Harbour, but added: “Fort Ember is exceptionally well, has a great draw (No 1) and a top jockey (An­ton Marcus). She’ll run an excel­lent race. I’m quietly confident.”

Cape-based Justin Snaith, who has a string of horses at Sum­merveld in KwaZulu-Natal until the end of winter, intends to bring Majorca Stakes runner-up Star Express to the Highveld on Friday to take part in the weight-for-age race, but said: “I’ll see how the week goes – I won’t bring her un­less she’s got a chance. I liked the look of the race meeting and will always do my best to play a part when it counts.

“Star Express is a lovely filly who gets every bit of 1600m easily and she’s doing very well at home. I’m not happy with her wide draw – it’s a long way to come for that draw – but Anthony Delpech will give her a bit of a chance in the race so we still have a filly after­wards.”

Lightly raced Juxtapose, last year’s SA Fillies Classic and SA Oaks winner who made a prom­ising comeback from a rest last time out, is the next highest-rated runner in the field. Her trainer Stanley Ferreira cautioned: “This is on the sharp side for her and she’s got entries in the Champions Challenge, Gerald Rosenberg and Gold Bowl .”

“She’s a tiny filly but has a huge heart. She’s a little darling!”

Three horses are rated 101, Bella Sonata, Intergalactic and Trophy Wife.

Trainer Gavin van Zyl said he is “upbeat that Bella Sonata will run a good race even though she is drawn wide. Her form has turned around in her two runs since she had a wind op, she’s just got better and better, and I expect her to be in the first three.”

Tarry trains both Intergalactic and Trophy Wife.

“Intergalactic had a good prep and has been competitive in this type of company, so must have a chance. (Stablemate) Tahini did beat Intergalactic last time but was the fitter horse and there is a turnaround at the weights.”

He said he wouldn’t be sur­prised to see Trophy Wife in the mix. “She had a bit of a rushed prep but her comeback from a rest was very good.”

His other runner is Heaps Of Fun. “She’s had a good prepara­tion but her form’s not been there in her last few runs. She will, how­ever, bounce back soon and I don’t think she’s out of it.”

Polyphonic came back to best to win the Jacaranda Handicap from a wide draw recently and Alec Laird has booked jockey Piere Strydom for the filly again.

Laird was unavailable for com­ment, but Strydom said he was hoping for “luck from a bad draw against horses who are better weighted under the conditions”.

The Mike de Kock stable will field three horses – Nother Russia, Al Hawraa and The Centenary and assistant trainer Mathew de Kock said it would probably be close be­tween the first two.

“The Centenary is coming off a long layoff and, although she enjoys running fresh, she’ll prob­ably be better over 2000m. Nother Russia is consistent and has a good draw, which is always a big help. Al Hawraa is best at 1600m – the 1800m of the SA Fillies Clas­sic was a touch too far. But she has got a horrible draw so will need a lot of luck.”

Johan Janse van Vuuren’s grey filly Negroamaro will always have her supporters. He would only say, “She’s very well but is in a very strong race.”

Roy Magner, asked about Anna Pavlova, said yesterday: “She worked hard this morning and did nicely. Although not well drawn, I’m expecting a good run.”

Kilauea is another with a wide draw. She had an interrupted preparation, but David Nieuwen­huizen said: “She’s got a lot of guts and must have a chance.”