JACK MILNER of Racing Express previews the J&B Met, and writes: It is remarkable that so many pundits are going on about the fact that Mother Russia may not see out 2000m, but one cannot argue with history and on form the distance is no problem.
She has run four times over the distance for a win and three close seconds. She beat River Jetez to win the Grade 2 Golden Bracelet, finished a 1.25-length second to Zirconeum in the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000 – both at Greyville – was touched off in the final strides by River Jetez in last year’s Met and was run out of it late by stablemate Flirtation in the Summer Cup at Turffontein. Those last two defeats were by 0.50 lengths.
“She’s stayed already and she’s already beaten the others,” commented Mike de Kock this week.
“Last year she was drawn on the outside and then wasted energy when a false start was called. She was only caught late in the race by River Jetez and still finished ahead of Pocket Power,” he pointed out.
“I believe more than anything the false start killed her. In my opinion she has matured since last year. Most horses only skeletally mature at five years old.”
This year she is just 0.5kg worse off with Pocket Power and will jump from No 8 draw. She also showed her ability when destroying a strong field in the Queen’s Plate. That race included many of the runners she meets in this race. Only second-paced Tales Of Bravery, who is 2.5kg better off for a 2.25-length beating, is weighted to get close to her.
She will not need to expend energy getting over from a wide berth. Marcus also knows her perfectly and has ridden her five times for five wins. The Kenilworth 2000m is one of the easiest in the county and in the “old days” they always used to say that the best miler always won the Met. Mother Russia is the proven best miler in the field and I believe only bad luck in running can cost her the race.
De Kock has also pooh-poohed those who claim she was stopping when caught late by Flirtation in the Summer Cup and that it proved she did not stay. “That was her second run back after a layoff and Flirtation has a powerful finish.
“She looks very well and I know a filly can throw you that odd bad race now and again. She runs well in the Cape because she’s at home here. I also don’t see too much pace in the race and she will probably race handily.
A year ago everybody was heaping praise on Bravura after his win in the Grade 1 Investec Cape Derby. Now he is almost the forgotten horse of the race. Unfortunately he had an injury that kept him out of racing for the winter and he has only run twice since then. Nevertheless, trainer Joey Ramsden is quietly confident.
“He is very well. He’s super fit and putting up magic work. I am very happy with his prep into this race. He may just have needed one more run but if he fails it won’t be because he’s underdone.”
Glen Hatt will ride the Silvano gelding and said yesterday his big-race runner was fit and well. “His work is excellent but whether he’s as good as he was as a three-year-old, only the race will tell.”
Pocket Power is the sentimental choice and this is being touted as his final race. It will be sad to see the eight-year-old go and trainer Mike Bass will probably suffer from empty-nest syndrome when he is eventually shipped out.
There probably will not be a dry eye on course should Pocket Power go out on a winning note but, while he will always be a champion, his best days appear to be over. Even Bass admitted that he would be happy with a place.
Flirtation is the only other female in the race and although she beat Mother Russia by 0.50 lengths to win the Summer Cup, the four-year-old is now 4.5kg worse off and could struggle to confirm that form. “Flirtation has a tough task with Mother Russia at the weights,” said De Kock. “But she is a filly who runs on well from behind and if she produces her best form she’ll have a chance.”
Three-year-old Run For It will find a lot of support but I’m not sure if he is in this class. He ran third in the Grade 2 Peninsula Handicap but while he is likely to turn the tables on first and second-placed Lion In Winter and Paddy O’Reilly, that still does not look good enough form to win this kind of race.
Tales Of Bravery is weighted to do well but one feels that all he did in the Queen’s Plate was run past the beaten horses and at no point did he look threatening to Mother Russia.