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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent

A Saturday that sketched out an exciting season

From Main Defender to Candice Bass-Robinson, there were auspicious moments.

The past Saturday’s racing might, in time, be looked back upon as a pivotal one for the 2023/24 season. A handful of races in the Fairest Cape and upcountry were auspicious starts to campaigns of horses that could significantly shape the coming summer and winter terms.

Charles Dickens, last season’s wonder horse, blew off the cobwebs in winning the Grade 3 1400m Hollywoodbets Matchem Stakes at Durbanville. It wasn’t as easy a job as the 1-5 odds suggested, but the now four-year-old son of Trippi was forced to race a bit wide and had ace sprinter Gimme A Prince giving him bother right to the line.

The principal target for Charles Dickens will be the Grade 1 L’Ormarins King’s Plate, in which he was narrowly pipped last time by an older and cannier Al Muthana. After that, the connections might be tempted by the Cape Town Met and possibly the Durban July.

Candice Bass-Robinson

The Matchem was one of four winners on the card for Candice Bass-Robinson, who currently heads the Western Cape trainer standings and surely has half an eye on the title come August 2024. Justin Snaith is a formidable opponent, but Bass-Robinson’s formidable stable firepower – some of it courtesy of reigning champion owner and breeder Drakenstein –must give her half a chance.

In that weaponry is Golden Hostess, who strolled to victory in the Hollywoodbets Diana Stakes. The four-year-old filly has been bumping the likes of Equus Horse of the Year Princess Calla to date, but looked a more furnished, more mature racehorse at Durbanville on Saturday.

One that didn’t work out for Bass-Robinson on the day was 8-10 shot Jerusalema Rain in a Progress Plate. With a record of two wins and three seconds, the gelding was a confident pick, but was clearly not up to the task after a three-month break.


Instead it was Snaith’s two-time winner Hluhluwe who put up his hand as a real contender for the upcoming classic races – as did close second Zoomie from Brett Crawford’s stable.

Meanwhile, far to the north at Turffontein, another three-year-old was making a statement by winning a feature race in open company. Main Defender has been in every pundit’s notebook following an eye-catching juvenile campaign of three wins and a second, but the step up to the Grade 2 Betway Spring Challenge was a big one.

Main Defender made it with a giant stride, destroying decent opposition in winning by more than six lengths and pushing his trainer Tony Peter further ahead at the top of the national log.
Of all the good showings on the day, this took the cake.

In contention for said cake were the marvellous Mrs Geriatrix, registering her sixth win in a row, and runner-up to her, White Pearl – giving notice of the influence new Mauritzfontein stallion Danon Platina is likely to have on out racing.

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