The words “Betting Feast” are usually reserved for the Vodacom Durban July, but the fare on offer at Turffontein on Saturday suggests the Highveld has closed the gap with a 12-race programme to suit any racing connoisseur.
From a Grade 1 race featuring the best horse in the country in Legal Eagle, a fascinating stayers race over 3200m and two juvenile races giving an insight to the future, one wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than the city track.
However, it’s a reality of racing that a “game plan” is needed if a punter wants to return home with money in his or her pocket.
In my 43 years as a racing journo, I hate to think the number of times I’ve travelled to a big meeting with definite thoughts on what I’m going to back only to change my mind after hearing “this is fancied” and “I’ve heard this can’t lose”.
So here’s the “game plan” for Champions Challenge day 2017 with – hopefully – a chance of making big loot via a win and place treble, quartet and quintet.
Win and Place TREBLE:
Race 2: ILITSHE (Gold Bowl): It’ll be a nail-biter for backers of Jurgen van Heerden’s stayer with this well-bred gelding likely to adopt similar tactics to the Caradoc Gold Cup when brought with a late flourish.
Race 8: HEAVENLY BLUE: The way the grey won the SA Classic suggests pundits will be hard pressed to tip anything to beat the Mike de Kock runner over the extra 650m.
Race 11: MACHISMO: This Sean Tarry inmate won cosily at the Vaal recently and the suspicion is that this sprinter is ahead of the handicapper.
Win and Place: QUARTET
Race 6: To the above trio, add in BI-POT to run a big race in the Wilgerbosdrift SA Oaks. Geoff Woodruff told anyone who cared to listen his Varsfontein-bred filly would give the favourite, Smiling Blue Eyes, a run for his money in the Fillies Classic and his opinion was spot-on with a brave third place.
Win and Place QUINTET:
Race 4: To the above quartet, add in NAAFER in the SA Nursery. Mike de Kock has entered this Lonhro colt out of an Exceed And Excel mare along with Mustaaqeem. If he relies on Naafer, he will hope the colt’s five lengths Vaal debut win was a stepping stone to better things. Interestingly, Machismo clocked a faster time over the 1200m at the same meeting. An attractive swinger wager here could be to take Naafer with Robbie Sage’s runner, Boatswain, who went in to many notebooks with his pleasing third on debut.
So there you have it – five horses who make the most appeal in their respective races. I know my wife will be following Jack Milner’s tips which might be the better way to go, but the trick is to try and not change your mind five minutes before the off. My thoughts on the day’s richest race – the R4-million Premier’s Champions Challenge – is that Mike de Kock has saved this from Legal Eagle doing another lap of honour by running Nother Russia.
Incredible to believe that a number of useful KZN horses will be sleeping in their boxes on Saturday afternoon when there’s such good prize-money – as Mike has pointed out – on offer.
The July prize money is almost on a par and only one of the 58 entries announced by Gold Circle can take home the winner’s cheque.
The penultimate race is the Camellia Stakes and Andrew Fortune’s mount, Crystal Glamour, could pose a real threat to Sean Tarry’s in-form filly, Exquisite Touch. If Sean also accepts with Swift Sarah, don’t leave this one out of exotic bets.
Sean will want to round off our autumn season with a bang and – apart from Legal Eagle – he has feature race hopes in Carry On Alice (Computaform Sprint), Barrack Street and Wonderwall. Trophy Wife, a running-on fifth behind Nother Russia in the Empress Club, rates an each-way shout in the Gerald Rosenberg.
Apparently, one of the prizes which can be won on Saturday is a ride in a Ferrari. Never mind a ride, I’ll be buying one if my quintet arrives!