Mike Moon
Horse racing correspondent
3 minute read
10 Jun 2022
12:07 pm

It’s sink or swim for Naval Guard in the Jubilee

Mike Moon

Three other July hopefuls, Johan Janse van Vuuren’s Puerta Manzano and Second Base and Sean Tarry’s Zillzaal are also running in the Jubilee.

There will be no shortage of thrills and spills at the Turffontein Racecourse this weekend as the Jubilee contest is run. Picture: Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images

There will be a lot of interest in the performance of Naval Guard in the Jubilee Handicap at Turffontein on Sunday.

The Paul Peter-trained gelding is one of 17 Hollywoodbets Durban July entrants turning out this weekend in a final bid to polish their credentials and secure a starting slot in the country’s premier horse race.

The special focus on Naval Guard is because someone has wagered a big wedge on him to win the July – despite the fact that he hasn’t yet made the “probable runners” log and his merit rating suggests he has little chance of making the final field.

July sponsor Hollywoodbets opened its early betting market on the big race with Naval Guard at 100-1. The lightly raced four-year-old then completed an impressive hat-trick of wins at Turffontein and looked like one of the most improved horses in the country. The money went down.

Hollywoodbets was obliged to slash the odds to 20-1. With ante-post betting prior to final-field stage not subject to refunds, that gambling plunge indicated a remarkable degree of confidence. Or bravado. Or foolishness.

The Grade 3, 1800m Jubilee Handicap was once a “golden ticket” race for the July, but is no longer, so even if Naval Guard wins on Sunday he might not crack the July nod. His current MR is 90, while the lowest on the log of the current 20 most-likely runners is 116.

It would have to be a rather special victory to turn the selection panel’s collective head. But the panel are known to be partial to in-form horses in their final deliberations – and the Jubilee was once a preferred prep race for the July.

Three other July hopefuls, Johan Janse van Vuuren’s Puerta Manzano and Second Base and Sean Tarry’s Zillzaal are also running in the Jubilee. All are among the top 20 on the log, though Zillzaal at 20th and Second Base at 17th might look a bit precarious if they get a whipping from Naval Guard.

The Grade 1, 1600m Gold Challenge run at Greyville on Saturday is, in fact, the final July golden ticket event and boasts six entries for the big one.

Justin Snaith’s dual Queen’s Plate winner Jet Dark is 16-10 favourite for the Challenge – and at 14-1 for the July. The stable’s other July candidate having a last shot at qualification via the Challenge is Crown Towers, at 20-1 and 125-1.

Linebacker, Russian Rock, Al Muthana and Bingwa make up the July contingent in the Challenge.

Six further hopefuls line up in the Grade 3 Cup Trial on the Greyville card, with Snaith’s charge Warrior (28-10) and Candice Bass-Robinson’s Firealley (5-1) most fancied to further their claims. Also in the mix are Snaith’s Native Tongue and the Glen Kotzen trio of Never Ending Rain, Chollima and Crimson King.

Bass-Robinson’s smart filly Marina (18th on the July log and 28-1 on the books) contests the Grade 2 Tibouchina Stakes on the Greyville card and will have to get the better of stablemate Zarina (not in the July, yet). They are quoted at 9-2 and 28-10 respectively.

It’s a last chance saloon weekend.