IN theory the role of a handicapper is to ensure every horse has an equal chance of winning, writes JACK MILNER of Racing Express. In practice that is an impossible task, but handicaps often do leave pundits with a challenging chore of finding a winner.
The Grade 2 Peermont Emperors Palace Charity Mile at Turffontein on Saturday is just such a race. Champion trainer Mike de Kock has a strong hand with five runners – Link Man, Silver Flyer, Meadow Magic, Silent Partner and Mujaarib – and it is the former who looks the right one. While runners like Silver Flyer, Mujaarib and Silent Partner have one eye on the Sansui Summer Cup on 1 December, Link Man has been perfectly primed for this race.
The five-year-old son of Toreador was gelded in August and De Kock feels he is a different horse since then. After a break, he made a comeback over 1000m on the Vaal sand track but lost ground at the start and never got into the race.
However, he found his form in the Grade 3 Joburg Spring Challenge over 1450m in which he stormed home to beat Zorba’s Tale by 1.25 lengths. Anthony Delpech takes the ride and they jump from barrier No 10.
“He is very well,” said De Kock. “It won’t be easy with top weight but then he deserves it. He has proven himself at Grade 1 level. I think will need a bit of pace but I would say he is the best of my runners for this event.”
The most serious threat could come from Whiteline Fever. He is well drawn at No 6, is ideally distance suited and has the services of champion jockey Anton Marcus. The son of Right Approach comes from the in-form Sean Tarry stable.
This distance is right up his street and Tarry says Whiteline Fever has had a perfect preparation. What does concern the trainer is the 3kg penalty incurred by his charge when beating Ice Machine in a Pinnacle Stakes over 1450m at Clairwood last time. “I hope the handicapper is right, but for me the figures don’t add up. He was tried and tested against the best in country and off that merit rating he was unable to feature well against them.
“Then he goes and beats a runner that has been carefully placed in races and gets a 3kg penalty for beating him. I hope I’m wrong and the handicapper is right.”
Last year’s Charity Mile winner, Pierre Jourdan, was 3.25 lengths back in fourth in that race and looks unlikely to reverse the form with just a 1kg turnaround. The Gary Alexander-trained runner needed his last start, will be better over this distance and will have the services of log-leading jockey Piere Strydom. That should all bring them a lot closer but it may not be enough for Pierre Jourdan to finish ahead of Link Man.
However, assistant trainer Dean Alexander believes “PJ” will be right there. “He is well and his work at home is very good. He might be six years old but he has been lightly raced. He has had his problems but right now he is sound and is moving well.
“Building up to a race like this you want an uninterrupted preparation and that is what he’s had so I believe he will be right there.”
That fact that in-form Piere Strydom is aboard also pleases Alexander. “Piere is a great judge of pace and he will have ‘PJ’ placed in the right position.”
Snowdon has rarely been far behind the likes of Link Man and Pierre Jourdan and looks well in to contest the finish. He is well drawn at No 2 and has Bernard Fayd’Herbe riding for the Ormond Ferraris stable. Five of his last six runs have been in Graded events and he has placed in all of them.
Silver Flyer was an impressive winner of his last start and, if he can overcome No 16 draw, must be in with a chance. Like stablemate Mujaarib, the Summer Cup is his final mission. “He will be competitive,” said De Kock. “He was impressive last time but is a hard horse to gauge as he gives you little on the training track.
“I’ve thrown Mujaarib in at the deep end but that is where he has been in his last two starts and he won both of those. It’s good to find out what you have. He will be better over further but he does need experience.”
Headline photo: Link Man (blue silks). winning at Turffontein.