LINK MAN has been scratched from the Gr1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge to be run at Clairwood in Durban on Saturday.
Trainer Mike de Kock said the four-year-old colt was off his feed.
The withdrawal reduces the field to just five horses, but what a quality field it is, writes JACK MILNER of Racing Express.
With the odd exception, such as last year’s winner Dancewiththedevil, theses horses represent the best “milers” in the land. Despite all that, Variety Club looks impossible to oppose.
He is the current champion over this distance and the bookmakers clearly concur as they have priced him up at 4-10.
It is hard to argue with their assessment. As this race is run at weight for age, the older horses have to give weight to Variety Club, the lone three-year-old in the field. In a handicap, he would have to give weight to all but What A Winter.
In his last start – the KRA Guineas over 1600m at Greyville – Variety Club was expected to be given a tough challenge by Jackson. However, that failed to materialise as Variety Club took the lead shortly after turning for home and went on to beat Jackson unchallenged by 2.25 lengths. The runner-up franked the form with a facile 3.75-length victory over Vettel in the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 at Greyville last Saturday.
As is so often the case in a small field, pace becomes an issue as nobody wants to go out and lead. However, that could add to Variety Club’s chances as he is quite content to make his own pace. Anton Marcus takes the ride once again and Joey Ramsden’s runner stands out as the best bet on the card.
Mike Bass sends out two runners in What A Winter and Castlethorpe. There is still doubt as to whether What A Winter will see out a true-run 1600m but that is not the case with Castlethorpe, who has a record of three wins and two places from six starts over the trip.
However, Bass has always believed What A Winter will see out the trip and in a small field he will be hoping that a slow-run race will see the five come sprinting for home. That would clearly suit the son of Western Winter, who is also marginally the best-weighted runner. Bernard Fayd’Herbe takes the ride.
Tales Of Bravery is a consistent runner. He has won nine of his 25 starts and has placed on eight occasions. He was rested after finishing unplaced in the J&B Met and came back well to win the Grade 2 Drill Hall Stakes over 1400m at Greyville.
He ran third behind Gimmethegreenlight and Variety Club in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate, finishing just one length behind the runner-up. He now meets Variety Club on 3.5kg better terms and on paper that should be enough to turn the tables. However, that weight difference is just the adjustment of the weight-for-age allowance and as he is now almost five months older, Variety Club should maintain the edge over his older rival.
Castlethorpe has contested three races over 1200m since coming back from a layoff and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the longer trip. He is talented and will have Karl Neisius up, but there is little in his form to indicate that he can successfully give weight and a beating to Variety Club.
Pierre Jourdan completes the field and has a distinct place chance.
He will have his first run for his new owners and trainer Gary Alexander has said this will be a preparation for the upcoming Vodacom Durban July but the son of Parade Leader often runs well in this situation.
Welwitschia and Princess Victoria were expected to dominate the SA Fillies Sprint at Scottsville last month but that did not materialise. While Welwitschia ran a decent enough race to finish a one-length second behind Ebony Flyer, Princess Victoria hardly raised a gallop and finished a disappointing seventh, beaten 4.75 lengths.
They meet again on Saturday in the Grade 2 Tibouchina Stakes.
There has been criticism of jockey Sean Cormack’s decision to stay on the outside of the track at Scottsville when all the winners were coming from the other side, but even then the run was below par. Perhaps it was just because it was her second run after a layoff but, overall, that is not her true form and Princess Victoria is clearly a lot better than that.
However, it would probably be a safer bet to go with Welwitschia, who is unbeaten over this distance.
The Grade 3 Cup Trail has attracted a strong field of Durban July hopefuls and Mike de Kock has a strong hand with Solo Traveller and Silver Flyer. The latter has apparently benefitted from being gelded and has been priced up 7-2 favourite but there was a lot to like about Solo Traveller’s last run in the Betting World 1900 at Greyville. He completed the final 400m in a remarkable 21.9 sec and will undoubtedly enjoy the longer run in at Clairwood.
Headline photo: Solo Traveller, strong chance in Cup Trial.