JACK MILNER: WITH all the buzz and excitement of the Vodacom Durban July meeting behind us, this weekend takes on a more subdued look although the season is still kept lively by the running of the Grade 1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m Clairwood on Saturday.
Jockey Anton Marcus is involved in a three-pronged tussle with Gavin Lerena and Anthony Delpech to retain his title as champion jockey. While he has said he is not prepared to travel all over the country to do so, the popular jockey is still managing to keep in touch with his two rivals.
He has the advantage of being the frontline jockey to some of the leading stables in the country and has the opportunity to ride some of the best horses in the land. He will be on one of those tomorrow when he rides Delago Deluxe for trainer Charles Laird.
This Australian-bred colt has set up a remarkable record of seven wins and three places from 11 starts to date. He went off the boil for a while but the addition of blinkers to his equipment seemed to do the trick and he is now back to his best.
He demonstrated that he had lost none of his ability when winning the Grade 1 Golden Horse Casino Sprint over 1200m at Scottsville at the end of May and he should be able to add this R600,000 race to his impressive tally.
He has raced twice at the course for a win and an unlucky 1.05-length third behind Maliyakhe, having had his head on the ground as the gates opened and Marcus thought it had been a false start. It is remarkable he managed to recover and finish so close to the winner.
Bookmakers seem to view this as a two-horse race between Delago Deluxe and What A Winter as Betting World has opened both runners at 5-2. Mike Bass’ charge has not had the best run this winter but could turn it around. The son of Western Winter has only had two starts in KwaZulu-Natal so far this season and has failed to place in either event.
After finishing a 3.25-length third behind Shea Shea in the Grade 1 Computaform Sprint at Turffontein, What A Winter was sent off 22-10 favourite for the Golden Horse Casino Sprint. He was drawn on the wrong side of the track but that might not have been his downfall. Having failed in the same race last year, What A Winter could just be one of those horses who does not enjoy racing on Scottsville’s undulating track. The same cannot be said of Clairwood. He has run here three times for two wins. His lone unplaced run came in the Grade 1 Gold Challenge over 1600m. He clearly did not see out the trip but still managed to finish just 3.75 lengths off Variety Club.
What A Winter has also won four of his six races over 1200m, his two poor runs coming at Scottsville Although beaten 8.30 lengths by Delago Deluxe in the Golden Horse Casino Sprint, the Bass runner is now 5.5kg better off and should give a good account of himself. Bernard Fayd’Herbe takes the ride.
Snowdon finished second behind Delago Deluxe at Scottsville, beaten 1.25 lengths. He is 1kg better off and that should bring him a little closer this time. However, trainer Ormond Ferraris’ charge is not the soundest runner around and his wellbeing is always a concern. However, he is ultra-consistent and will have the services of jockey Anthony Delpech.
An interesting entry is Midnight Serenade. Dianne Stenger rarely takes horses around the country unless she believes they have some sort of chance. Going back to his juvenile days, this son of Malhub lived in the shadow of Delago Deluxe. He ran a 4.50-length third behind Laird’s runner in the Grade 1 Golden Medallion at Scottsville but a run earlier the three-year-old gelding was beaten just a neck by Delago Deluxe in the Grade 2 SA Nursery over 1160m at Turffontein.
Stenger tried him in blinkers for the first time over 1000m at Turffontein last month and the improvement was remarkable. He easily accounted for Mannequin by 5.50 lengths with another 1.50 lengths back to Magico in a Conditions Plate. Magico is 6.5kg better off but Midnight Serenade should still confirm the form. Robbie Fradd, who rode him last time, takes the ride again.
Bass also saddles Rushing Wind, who has the knack of flying at the finish but rarely gets up to win. He might prefer further these days but did beat What A Winter 6.10 lengths in the Golden Horse Casino Sprint and is now 5kg worse off. Stable jockey Fayd’Herbe opted for What A Winter, which suggests he is the stable elect, but Rushing Wind will be charging at them late and could finish in the Quartet. MJ Byleveld rides.