RACING editor Jack Milner of The Citizen’s Racing Express previews the two major features at Turffontein on Saturday, selecting a Mike de Kock runner to win both Guineas.
ALEXANDRA PALACE is situated in North London and until 1970 housed the city’s lone racecourse. It was the quirkiest course in Britain, celebrated for its atmosphere but reviled for the treacherous twists and turns of its “frying pan” shape.
Plans are afoot to resurrect the controversial course but at the moment the only connection between horseracing and Alexandra Palace (headline photo by JC Photos,winning Sea Cottage Stakes) is a Mike de Kock-trained colt who will run in the R1-million Betting World Guineas at Turffontein on Saturday.
The Grade 2 race over 1600m represents the first leg of the SASCOC Triple Crown which bears a R2-million bonus for any horse who goes on to capture the Grade 1 SA Classic over 1800m on 30 March and the Grade 1 SA Derby over 2450m on Saturday 27 April.
De Kock saddles three runners in the Guineas – Alexandra Palace, Emerald Approach and Cannon – and the former has been priced up favourite at 7-2.
It is hard to fault the form of the son of Jet Master. He has raced three times for two wins. His only defeat came on debut when he was beaten one length by Agadez. However, there were excuses as his saddle slipped during the race.
His last victory was most impressive as he had just returned from a three-month layoff but still ran on doggedly to take the Listed Sea Cottage Stakes over 1800m by a short head from American Storm.
It might have been a narrow win but Alexandra Palace fought on gamely and can only improve on that run.
Stable jockey Anthony Delpech has the ride and the pair are well drawn at No 6. The only concern is that 1600m could be a bit sharp but if he does win this event, Alexandra Palace has to be a contender for the Triple Crown.
“He’s a classy horse but he’s still learning to race,’’ said Mathew de Kock, assistant to father Mike.
“His main mission is the SA Classic but he’s good enough to run a big race over 1600m. If he gets away with the first leg, he could be a Triple Crown contender.’’
Love Struck is highly rated, both by trainer Paul Lafferty and the handicapper. The Kahal gelding has won three of his last four starts with his only defeat coming in the Grade 1 Cape Guineas at Kenilworth in December. He was beaten 5.95 lengths by Capetown Noir, who with respect to this field, would probably win the race by that distance.
Love Struck went on to capture the Listed Politician Stakes over 1800m. He just got up to win but both Lafferty and jockey Anton Marcus felt 1800m was a touch too far.
The drop to 1600m should be ideal and with Marcus back in the irons and a perfect No 5 draw, Love Struck must be a massive contender.
“His form is solid,’’ said Lafferty yesterday. “If you ask him to go he will keep giving. Anton has done all the work on him and is very happy. He rates him the best three-year-old ‘miler’ in KwaZulu-Natal. We are optimistic.’’
Francois Bernardus took over the role of the highest-rated runner from Love Struck when he won a 1200m race at the Vaal on Thursday last week. It was not the most impressive of fields but the Tyrone Zackey-trained runner did win with authority.
Francois Bernardus’ biggest claim to fame is that he beat The Hangman in the Graham Beck Stakes over 1400m at this track. In fact, he is unbeaten since joining the Zackey yard in October last year.
The Goldkeeper gelding is untried over 1600m but jockey Piere Strydom seems to feel the distance will not be a problem.
Geoff Woodruff sends out three runners. Sabadell and Killua Castle have exposed form and have not been setting the racing world alight since they finished second and third respectively behind The Hangman in the Grade 2 Dingaans on 1 December.
However, much is expected from Woodruff’s third runner, Tellina. He has not taken on this class of company before but did win well against older horses in a MR 72 Handicap last time out and is expected to improve. Woodruff rates this son of Silvano highly and jockey Robbie Fradd is expecting a big run.
Woodruff is currently in Australia but son Tim says the stable is expecting a big run from Tellina.
“He is unproven but you’ve got to respect Robbie’s decision to ride him as he had the pick of our rides, and probably a few others, and chose this guy. He is a terrible work horse and gives you no confidence but he just turns it up at the track.’’
Others to consider are War Horse, the only Grade 1 winner in the field but poorly drawn, Emerald Approach and Swift And Strong.
The De Kock-trained Espumanti, who contests the R500,000 Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas over 1600m, represents the only clear banker on the card. The British-bred daughter of Dansili will have no idea, of course, that she is carrying the hopes of thousands of punters when she lines up for the Grade 2 race, which is the first leg of the Wilgerbosdrift Triple Tiara.
A victory in the Guineas would probably set her on a path to emulate Igugu in winning the R1-million on offer for adding the Grade 1 SA Fillies Classic over 1800m and the Grade 2 SA Oaks over 2450m to a Guineas crown.
Espumanti, who runs in the colours of Wilgerbosdrift’s Mary Slack, looks to be a superstar in the making and it would come as no surprise if she were to emulate her stablemate and win the Triple Tiara. She has raced three times for three facile wins and each jockey who has worked her has raved about her ability.
Anthony Delpech, who rode Igugu, is aboard Espumanti and they are perfectly drawn at No 2. As she is almost six months younger than the SA-bred fillies she also has the advantage of a 2kg northern hemisphere allowance.
However, while Mathew de Kock is expecting a big race, he is reticent about making her a “good thing’’.
“Espumanti is a very talented filly but this is her first time over 1600m, and in this class has it all to do. She was withdrawn last time but I don’t think losing that opportunity will affect her and she will not be short of a run. I have no doubt she should be favourite but she has it all to prove.’’
While she has just turned three, Espumanti is a well-built filly and is probably bigger than most of her rivals. Pick 6 punters will have the back up of two other De Kock runners in Al Kindi and Tayba.
Sean Tarry saddles Fire Wheel who will be ridden by Anton Marcus and is well drawn at No 3 and looks the main threat to Espumanti. She finished a two-length second behind Cherry On The Top in the Grade 3 Fillies Mile in December and followed that up with a comfortable four-length victory over Lady Tatty in a Novice Plate for fillies over this course and distance.
Cherry On the Top would have had an excellent chance had she drawn in single figures but currently she is likely to jump from barrier No 13 when the reserve runners come out. “Cherry On The Top is an above average filly but a bad draw is a bad draw, no matter which course you are at. She is well, no problems there, but I’ve just got to work out tactics,’’ Ferraris said.
She finished a 3.25-length second behind King’s Temptress in the Grade 3 Three Troikas Stakes over 1450m at Turffontein but with a 5.5kg pull in the weights, should turn that around, especially over the extra 150m and the change to the standside course.
King’s Temptress is clearly a decent filly and has now won two Group races at this course so she cannot be ignored. “Everything has been going well with her and I have been pleased with her preparation,’’ said trainer Kom Naidoo. “She may even start to enjoy going further now based on her work at home and I am hoping she can win this.’’
Pick 6 carryover R437,734 – estimated pool R3.5 million; Two Jackpots (Jackpot 1 starts Race 5, Jackpot 2 starts Race 7); Place payouts to first five finishers in both Gauteng Fillies Guineas and Gauteng Guineas.