3-year-olds on display at Turffontein

Talented youngsters on show in Oaks Trial and Hawwaam Stakes

We are heading towards Champions Day on 6 April where four Grade 1 races and a host of Grade 2 events will be run, including the TAB SA Derby and Wilgerbosdrift SA Oaks for fillies, both over 2450m.

On Saturday at Turffontein some of the prospective talent will be on show in the Ormond Ferraris Oaks Trial and the TAB Hawwaam Stakes, which acts as the Derby trial. Both are Listed races over 2000m on the Standside track.

Ormond Ferraris is a legend in South African racing circles and not only did he train for more than 60 years but also passed on his knowledge of the sport to the likes of Mike de Kock and Weiho Marwing. During that time he virtually owned the Oaks and Derby, winning the former 10 times and the latter on eight occasions so it is fitting the Oaks Trial is named in his honour.

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Two runners stand out in this year’s Oaks Trial – Mary’s Greenlight and Frances Ethel.

Mary’s Greenlight is trained by De Kock and is a three-time winner from 11 starts. Her victories have been over 1400m and 1600m and this will be the first time she will be trying further. The manner in which she finishes off her races gives one the impression she will be even better over 2000m.

Last time out she finished third behind Frances Ethel, beaten just 1.80 lengths. This time Mary’s Greenlight will be 4.5kg better off and has the services of Piere Strydom. On paper that should be enough to turn the form around, however, Frances Ethel has a lot going for her.

The Rafeef filly has raced just three times for a second place on debut followed by two wins. She is getting better with each run and still has loads of room for improvement. Trained by Brett Crawford, one would imagine this race is just the dress rehearsal for the main event on 6 April and as a result she could well reverse the form with Mary’s Greenlight, despite the weight difference. With regular jockey Kabelo Matsunyane on an enforced holiday for the week, Ant Mgudlwa will take over that role.

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There are some other interesting runners, in particular lightly raced Sukhumvit who will be trying this trip for the first time, and two other De Kock inmates, Forgiveness, who ran a cracker behind East Coast last time, and Kadizora, who might even find this trip a touch short.

The Hawwaam Stakes looks very open and a case can be made for a number of runners. Hawkbill ran a great race last time when a 1.10-length third behind East Coast over 2000m on the Vaal Classic track and that puts him into contention. The Lucky Houdalakis-trained gelding will carry 3kg more this time but will have Strydom in the irons. He is also the best weighted runner.

De Kock has two runners in Dubai Hills and lightly raced Marauding Horde who shifted around when winning last time and has been fitted with blinkers for this run.

The value of the race could lie with Thunee Playa, who looks to have lots more improvement to come and needs to be included in exotics. Trained by Lorenzo Karriem, this Vercingetorix colt was beaten less than a length into third in his first three starts, but they may have been over a distance too short. His fourth race was over 2000m, and he won that with authority. He ran into all sorts of problems when dropping back to 1800m last time but still did well enough to finish just 3.80 lengths behind Supreme Dance.

Thunee Playa will enjoy the return to 2000m and back in his own age group has to be a big runner. Denis Schwarz takes the ride.

Good Council has finished runner-up behind Zeus in his last three runs but with Fabian Habib’s charge running in Race 9 this time, it should provide Stuart Pettigrew’s charge the perfect opportunity to claim a feature in the Listed TAB Aquanaut Handicap over 2400m.

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