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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent

SA Oaks is shorn of its leading ‘Lady’

Two top Joburg three-year-olds forsake the Triple series.

There’ll be no “Three Times a Lady” being crooned after the SA Oaks at Turffontein next month – as the Triple Tiara will not have been won.

The marketing line purloined from Lionel Ritchie’s croony tune of the 1970s is already looking forlorn and as stale as yesterday’s tips in the racing guides, following trainer Mike de Kock’s confirmation that filly Gimme A Nother will contest the Grade 1 Empress Club Stakes rather than the Grade 2 Oaks on the same day.

The unbeaten youngster had won the first two legs of the Tiara series and was in line for the R1-million bonus for completing the hat-trick. But after her facile win in Leg 2, the SA Fillies Classic last weekend, De Kock said he might not close the circle in Leg 3, the Oaks – and thus forsake an extra bar begging to be banked.

In addition to its Grade 1 status, the Empress Club’s 1600m trip was deemed more fitting at this stage of a potential superstar’s career. Plus, importantly, there was a chance to emulate her mother and her grandmother – Nother Russia and Mother Russia – in claiming one of South Africa’s most illustrious trophies for female horses.

De Kock said on his website Gimme a Nother’s stablemate Silver Sanctuary – runner-up in the Fillies Classic – would be his yard’s principal contender in the 2450m Oaks.

Derby Day

The Triple Crown, the three-year-old companion-piece series, was derailed at the second hurdle on Saturday when Gauteng Guineas victor Sandringham Summit failed to justify huge market support by following up in the SA Classic.

Sandringham Summit’s owner Varsfontein Stud announced later in the week that the colt would not participate on Derby Day at all and would be readied for the coming winter season in KwaZulu-Natal.

Varsfontein’s Susan Rowett told Turf Talk newsletter that even if Sandringham Summit had won the Classic the connections were planning not to tackle the Triple Crown Leg 3, the 2450m SA Derby, but rather the 2000m Premier’s Champions Challenge on the same card. Again, the shorter trip was thought to be more suitable at this stage.

But perceived failure to see out the Classic’s 1800m had forced a rethink and even 2000m was deemed a stretch at present.

The comments of both De Kock and Rowett will be a worry for Highveld racing operator 4Racing, which stages the Triples. The much-publicised competitions had already become something of a provincial sideshow, with coastal stables unwilling to take the risks of an arduous two-month campaign in upcountry climes. Now even local candidates for the glittery headgear are fighting shy.

Varsfontein outlined Sandringham Summit’s targets in KZN and, intriguingly, they are precisely those mapped out for fellow ballyhooed three-year-old Joburger Main Defender.

The supposed keen rivals could meet in all of the 1600m KZN Guineas, the 1600m Gold Challenge and the 1800m Champions Cup at Greyville.

The duo have met twice before, with Sandringham Summit winning over 1600m and Main Defender prevailing over 1400m. Many a pundit had thought their paths were diverging, with the former going over more ground and the latter sticking to the speed.

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