Mike de Kock-trained two-year-old Hakeem ran a promising debut last month when drifting from 8-10 to 5-2 and running second to Orpheus over this course and distance. The winner, also a debutant, was a bit disappointing next time out and none of the other runners have been out since, so it is hard to judge the strength of the form. However, Hakeem can only improve on that effort and looks hard to beat in what is not a strong Maiden Plate. He will be ridden by Craig Zackey.
Mike Azzie trains Orpheus and this time he might have to settle for second with Llandudno. This Querari juvenile has shown promise in his three starts to date and finished second behind Play Misty For Me over this course and distance last time out. That was not the strongest field around, but Llandudno could be the right one for Exactas, especially with Piere Strydom in the saddle.
Short And Sweet, Dancing Rebel and Witch King might be best of the rest.
Zackey could also oblige on Paul Peter-trained Alpine Echo, another two-year-old taking on his elders. He beat Desert Rhythm over 800m in his debut in December and was next seen out in the Storm Bird Stakes, when he started slowly, went forward to race handily in the straight and then faded to fifth, 7.05 lengths behind Barrack Street.
The winner went on to take the Protea Stakes next time out and then finished sixth in the SA Nursery.
A number of runners could follow Alpine Echo home, perhaps led by Stark and Mission Control.
Stark has been battling to get a second win on the board but trainer Barend Botes has him in fine fettle and he has not been beaten far in his last two starts, the latest when a long head behind Reserve 1 Le Tigre (0.5kg worse off).
Geoff Woodruff’s charge Mission Control beat evergreen stalwart Flag Of France by a short head last time out and, although he meets the runner-up on 1kg worse terms, could confirm the form.
Collateral form suggests Dragoon, at best, Flag Of France, Roman Evening and Dream Leader will also be right there.
There are a couple of potential “good things” in the first two races, Unchained Melody and Var Agtig respectively.
Peter’s charge Unchained Melody seems better suited to this 1000m than the 1200m of his last race, when distressed, lame and only sixth behind Western Warrior. He was a beaten favourite, 1.10 lengths behind Zip Line over 1000m at Turffontein before that and could recoup losses.
The form of Var Agtig’s last race has worked out exceptionally well, with three subsequent winners. That was a third behind Winter Watch over 1000m at the Vaal.
Fancifilly ran a promising debut last time out and will have plenty of supporters on her second start and she rates the biggest danger.