MIKE de Kock has a high opinion of UK-bred filly Welwitschia and she will be fully tested on Tuesday 12 April when she comes up against a strong field of fillies and mares in the Grade 1 L Jaffee Empress Club Stakes over 1600m at Turffontein.
She is the only three-year-old in the field and with her age and northern Hemisphere weight allowance, the daughter of Oasis Dream will carry 55.5kg while the balance of the field all have 60kg.
Flirtation with Billy Anne and Costa Livanos.
The best-weighted runner is Dancewiththedevil, winner of the Grade 1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes over this course and distance. Racing in soft going, trainer St John Gray’s four-year-old filly came from well back to beat Earl Of Surrey by 5.50 lengths.
As a result she was penalised a massive 8kg although as this event is at set weights it will make virtually no difference in this race. Dancewiththedevil is well drawn at No 2 while Welwitschia, who on paper is 4kg out with Gray’s filly, is at No 8.
S’manga Khumalo, who rode her to victory in the Horse Chestnut Stakes, is aboard Dancewiththedevil yet again while Anthony Delpech has the ride on Welwitschia.
This is far from a two-horse race. Last year’s runner-up, Queen’s Bay, is also in the field and is at her best at this course. At one stage she looked to have Mother Russia under pressure during the race but in the end the daughter of Windrush proved too good.
De Kock saddles four other decent runners in Sansui Summer Cup (Grade 1) champion Flirtation, Charity Mile (Grade 2) winner Alderry, Fisani, who on Classic Day captured the Jacaranda Handicap (Grade 3) over 1800m at the track and Headstrong, second in last Saturday’s Sycamore Sprint.
Anton Marcus, who won for De Kock last year on Mother Russia, is aboard Flirtation.
There are also two visiting runners contesting the race. Goat has been in Johannesburg for quite a while now and Paul Lafferty’s runner has twice been beaten by Dancewiththedevil. She will be fully acclimatized by now and should feature prominently. Denis Drier has brought Jo Piper from KwaZulu-Natal and she will be ridden by Alec Forbes.
Gray knows that Dancewiththedevil will love a decent pace and that may well be why he added Engagement to the race. However, she has beaten her stable companion at level weights, but that was over 1450m on the Turffontein inside track.
L JAFFEE EMPRESS CLUB STAKES (Grade 1)(F&M) R1-million 1600m
1 – 2 DANCEWITHTHEDEVIL (S J Gray) S Khumalo 60.0 – 111
2 – 7 MISS TURBULENCE (W H Marwing) F Coetzee 60.0 – 105
3 – 6 ALDERRY (M F De Kock) G Wrogemann 60.0 – 104
4 – 5 FLIRTATION (M F De Kock) A Marcus 60.0 – 104
5 – 1 QUEEN’S BAY (M G Azzie) C Orffer 60.0 – 103
6 – 12 FISANI (M F De Kock) G Lerena 60.0 – 102
7 – 11 BEDLOE’S ISLAND (S G Tarry) J P v’d Merwe 60.0 – 101
8 – 10 GOAT (P V Lafferty) G Figueroa 60.0 – 101
9 – 4 JO PIPER (D R Drier) A Forbes 60.0 – 99
10 – 13 RECONCILE (J Vos) S Brown 60.0 – 98
11 – 3 HEADSTRONG (M F De Kock) M Odendaal 60.0 – 95
12 – 9 ENGAGEMENT (S J Gray) T Appie 60.0 – 89
13 – 8 WELWITSCHIA (M F De Kock) A Delpech 55.5 – 99
Same Trainer: (1,12) (3,4,6,11,13)