SUMMERVELD has been abuzz with talk about Saturday’s Festival Of Speed meeting at Scottsville and as usual the Mike de Kock yard will hold a strong hand in the Jackpot of Grade 1 features.
The clash between the de Kock-trained Welwitschia and the superstar Glen Kotzen-trained Princess Victoria in the SA Fillies Sprint has drawn much debate and both teams are equally bullish.
The betting has Princess Victoria and Ebony Flyer as the joint 2-1 favourites, with Welwitschia at 22-10, but the Justin Snaith yard are not as bullish as the Kotzen and de Kock yards and emphasised that this would be a “prep run” for the big daughter of Jet Master.
Everybody is in agreement that Welwitschia was mightily impressive in her last start in the Grade 2 Camelia Stakes over 1160m.
The question is what she beat, but on the other hand the going was clearly superior on the outside of the track on the day and yet, in a matter of strides, she overtook the field on their inside and in the blink of an eyelid had gone from last to first.
Furthermore, she has always been highly rated by the de Kock yard and this was the first time she had run in a sprint since her debut.
De Kock said after that race that he was sometimes “too stubborn for his own good”, referring to how he had tried to make her stay further when she was probably a sprinter.
Despite Scottsville being a tougher track than Turffontein, early speed followed by a high cruising speed are probably more essential requirements, as the first 700m or so of the 1200m course are downhill and horses are at a risk of being left too far out of their ground.
However, the de Kock yard were not concerned about Welwitschia being left with too much to do and said she had been “flying” in her work.
There should also be no fears of a lack of pace in the race as the Herman Brown/Frank Robinson-trained Chocolicious proved in her last start that front-running brings out the best in her.
She could well set the fractions for this event, but shouldn’t be written off merely as a hare with the yard confident that the former Allan Robertson winner will be in the Exacta.
The Justin Snaith-trained Ebony Flyer is another filly who appears to have been forgotten by those that are calling it a two horse race, as her recent breathing operation has been very successful and Felix Coetzee recently described her as a “different horse” to the one that won the Grade 1 Klawervlei Majorca Stakes over 1600m on J&B Met day.
That she won that Grade 1 while experiencing problems breathing showed just how good she is and it is not surprising that the connections are excited about what she might now achieve while breathing more normally.
However Snaith said, “She is doing fine, but this is a prep run for the Rising Sun Gold Challenge and whatever happens will be a bonus. There was not much else for her to run in besides this race. This is her first start after her breathing operation and we are not sure how she will handle the Scottsville downhill.”
De Kock has won each of the Festival Of Speed Grade 1s once in the past, but on Saturday will be attempting a single day grand slam as he has one runner in each of the big races and all of them have been doing very well in their work.
His two-year-old King Of Kings colt Reign As Kings is the joint 33-10 favourite with the Dean Kannemeyer-trained Cape Royal in the Tsogo Sun Medallion.
Reign As Kings has a big stride and has the high cruising speed and ability to kick off that cruising speed that are usually the hallmarks of Grade 1 winners over the 1200m Scottsville sprint.
He is a progressive sort having won three starts since his narrow loss on debut to My Jelly Bean, including a non-black type feature over 1000m at Clairwood in which he reversed form with My Jelly Bean, beating him by 1,5 lengths.
De Kock’s two-year-old Trippi filly Lonsome Dove is an 8-1 chance for the Allan Robertson.
She won on debut over 1000m at Clairwood and although the second horse, Queen’s Court, failed to convert odds-on favouritism on Sunday over 1200m she was up against a decent sort in Preamble, who will be aimed at Grade 1s later this Champions Season, and furthermore assistant trainer Nathan Kotzen pointed out that Lonsome Dove had won “hard held”.
However, Kotzen added, “She is very quick and I wish it was a five furlong (1000m) race.”
De Kock’s four-year-old Toreador colt Link Man is a 9-2 shot for Saturday’s Golden Horse Casino Sprint.
He comes off a layoff of nearly five months since finishing last and reported bleeding in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.
His ability over the Scottsville course and distance is undoubted as he won the Medallion two years ago when with Dennis Drier.
It is interesting to note that De Kock’s win in the Golden Horse was with Kildonan, a similar sprint-miler type, who was returning from a six month break.
That proved that de Kock-trained sprinters are dangerous when running fresh, while Link Man also has a handy 57kg galloping weight, 3kgs less than top-weight What A Winter.
Headline photo: Reign As Kings (brown, cream silks), Tsogo Sun Medallion favourite.