Unaffected by course closures and programming changes for decades, Scottsville’s Festival of G1 Sprints remains as popular as ever. The country’s best two-year-old and older sprinters assemble at the Pietermaritzburg track on Saturday for the 2023 renewal of this well supported extravaganza of speed featuring four standard-setting 1200m contests for the best speedsters of the up-and-coming generation and the cream of the older generation.
There is a Jackpot Bonanza to cover the sprint sizzlers from Races 5 to 8, and with a R1-million Carryover to kickstart the bet, a pool of R3-million is expected. You can participate via the Betway Tote offering – the Festival Jackpot features large fields and invariably produces a longshot or two, and a healthy dividend.
Mike de Kock’s participation starts in Race 5, the glittering Allan Robertson Championship, in which Red Hot Rose takes on the likes of recent Strelitzia Stakes winner, Winter Cloud, and Mrs Geriatrix, the talented filly who defeated her by a long neck in the G2 SA Nursery.
Readers of this column will know all about Red Ho Rose as Mike has spoken with high regard of her even before her debut in March. He said: “She had the Nursery won last time and I’m still scratching my head how she got beat. It’s obviously a very competitive field with fast improvers coming into the race, but if she gets the right kind of ride, I’d say she’s a big runner. She’s come on very well at Summerveld, she has enjoyed Durban.”
The inside draws have a traditional favourable bias up the Scottsville straight, and in Red Hot Rose’s marginal favour is that she has a 7 draw (9% winning strike rate), opposed to the 10 draw of Winter Cloud (6%) and the 12 of Mrs Geriatrix (7%), but the rival pair have the pace to come across. We’re set for a grandstand finish here.
Next for the stable, Desert Miracle and Iphiko in the SA Fillies Sprint, for which champion filly Princess Calla has been priced up even-money favourite. In in the ‘star’ category herself, Desert Miracle comes into the race in good nick and Mike noted: “She is very sharp and fresh at the moment. This is a build-up to the Garden Province Stakes, but she seems to do well with a short sprint ahead of a mile like we saw in Cape Town when she ran within a length of Princess Calla in the Sceptre Stakes and then won the Majorca; also in Johannesburg when she had a 1400m prep into the mile. I’m going the same route here to keep her fresh and fast. I think she’s a contender here, I wouldn’t leave her out of anything.
“Iphiko is doing really well to, her work is exceptional but she will race without a prep run under the belt and that is a concern. I am not sure about the 1200m so I would love to have had a run under the belt. But on her work, she should be considered for the Quartet.”
Mike’s Forever Mine takes on a strong field of rivals in Race 4 over 1400m, with Richard Fourie’s services to help. Mike said: “He is a game horse and his last run was really good, he finished only 3.3-lengths behind Trip Of Fortune in the Drill Hall Stakes. He is in a good space, he should have a chance.”