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The 2020 Triple Crown champion, unbeaten in seven starts for the Paul Peter yard, was priced up as the 5-2 favourite when a list of 49 first entries was announced – followed by a handicappers’ log of probable starters for the R425,000 Grade 1 race.
Top of the log was Got The Greenlight, Joey Soma’s colt who was a gallant second in the Durban July. However, the Turffontein trainer immediately stated that his charge was “virtually 90%” unlikely to contest the handicap and he would target other opportunities in weight-for-age races – ahead of a possible overseas campaign.
The bookmakers pushed Got The Greenlight’s odds out from an opening 28-10 to eights – but kept him on the board, just in case.
Then came a rush of bets for a “dark horse”, which suggested Joburg’s premier race might turn into a showdown between the hugely popular Summer Pudding and another four-year-old filly called Dance Class.
Punters not concentrating on Highveld racing in recent weeks might be excused for asking: Dance Who?
Even the handicappers might have been blind-sided – they had not included the horse among their top 25 on the log. This was after she had won six races in a row from early-June but somehow remained stuck on a merit rating of just 92.
By contrast, Got The Greenlight is on 124 and Summer Pudding 117. The lowest-rated “probable” is Imperial Ruby on 107.
Dance Class – owned, trained and bred by the great turf allrounder St John Gray – was slashed from opening odds of 20-1 to 8-1 in a matter of hours.
Gray has campaigned his chestnut cannily to keep her MR from ballooning but he will have to test her in better company in the next month if she is to make the final field of 20.
Her pedigree strongly indicates she’ll have no problem stepping up in class, for she is a close relative of Gray’s heroine of yesteryear Dancewiththedevil – who won the 2011 Summer Cup and three other Grade 1 contests (Horse Chestnut Stakes, Empress Club Stakes and Gold Challenge).
Like Dancewiththedevil, Dance Class is by unfashionable sire Modus Vivendi and out of five-time winning mare Dance Alley – a half-sister to Dancewiththedevil.
If family connections were the criterion, Dance Alley would definitely crack the Summer Cup nod.
But her rise has been unheralded following a modest career start. On debut, in mid-January 2020 at the Vaal over 1200m, starting at 33-1, she finished eighth of 13. Another five runs followed before the pandemic shut down racing at end-March – yielding two promising second places but not igniting the world.
Come the restart in June and Dance Class showed she’d learned the right steps during lockdown, reeling off those six victories in the space of four months. Her last two wins have been over 2000m and 2600m at Turffontein, amply demonstrating her aptitude for the Summer Cup’s 2000m on the same turf.
In one post-race interview, Gray said Dance Class’s acceleration reminded him of her aunt.
5-2 Summer Pudding
8-1 Dance Class, Got The Greenlight
11-1 Queen Supreme, Charles
13-1 Tierra Del Fuego, Zillzaal
22-1 Victoria Paige, Crown Towers
28-1 Divine Odyssey, Running Brave
33-1 and upwards the others
First log for the Gauteng Summer Cup
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