THE 2011-12 horseracing season has been grand entertainment from its start on 1 August last year and it comes to a magnificent close at Greyville this Saturday with a mega day-night race meeting that contains four Grade 1 clashes.
They include the R1-million Ladbrokes Gold Cup, which has long been Africa’s premier race for stayers and champion trainer Mike de Kock will be hoping to close off another huge season for his stable by capturing the 3200m marathon.
De Kock, who is currently R6 million clear in the race for this season’s trainer’s title with stable earnings of more than R21 million, sends four runners into battle in a bid to win the Gold Cup for the third time in six years.
He scored with Thundering Star in 2007 and Ancestral Fore in 2010, and this year counts on Ilsanpietro, Captain’s Wild, Gorongosa and up-and-coming three-year Vettel, who ran a cracker in the Vodacom Durban July three weeks ago.
Two of Vettel’s three successes to date have come over long distances and it was always on the cards that he would find the 2200m distance of the July too short him.
As expected, he didn’t have the finishing speed to go with the big guns in the closing stages of Africa’s greatest race, but he was in contention until late in the race and finished only 1.40 lengths behind Pomodoro in sixth place.
Vettel is not guaranteed to stay the Gold Cup distance, but wins at 2500m and 2600m indicate that he should. And if he does stay, he should only have to repeat his July effort to win.
His stablemate Gorongosa must rank his main threat.
She was always well back in the July, but didn’t have an easy passage early over a distance short of her best and the run is best forgotten.
Before that she had been devastating in marathons, posting five successes in a row that included the 3200m Gold Bowl on Champions Day at Turffontein.
Trainer Dean Kannemeyer’s charge Blake is 9-2 favourite at the time of writing and represents the chief obstacle between De Kock and another Gold Cup success.
Blake won the 2800m J&B Reserve Stayers on Met Day this year and his form in Durban this winter has been solid. Expect a big run from the five-year-old, while Sage Throne is not certain to stay but will be a formidable rival if he does.
Top Seller faded after making the pace in the July, but this colt can still improve and looks the best outsider.
The R700,000 Champions Cup over 1800m will be run 45 min after the Gold Cup and this is an enthralling contest, in which only a handful of the runners look without chances.
Chesalon and Solo Traveller have been priced up joint favourites and both have strong claims, but so do trainer Sean Tarry’s charges Gold Onyx and Whiteline Fever, while Pierre Jourdan ruined his chance in the July by starting slowly. Add in the likes of Black Wing, who has regained form since joining trainer Brett Crawford, and the stage is set for a nail-biting finish.
Seven of the 12 races are feature events and it’s going to be a fabulous end to the season. Don’t miss it!