JACK MILNER: LAST year fillies dominated South African racing with the likes of Igugu and Dancewiththedevil in particular. With those two now on course to race overseas, the boys have come back into the picture.
However, that could change at Scottsville on Tuesday when Gary Alexander-trained Classic Illusion runs in Race 6, a MR 91 Handicap over 1600m. The daughter of Kahal has only one victory to her credit in six career starts but has contested Graded races against some of the best fillies in country.
She has clearly shown quite a bit in work as she has often found betting support, but Classic Illusion’s performances have often not matched the flow of money. Her last three runs have been fairly decent. She finished a 2.30-length sixth behind Bambina Stripes in the Grade 1 SA Fillies Classic over 1800m at Turffontein and then found the 2450m of the Grade 2 SA Oaks too far, trailing in 19 lengths behind Ilha Bela.
However, in her last start – a Conditions Plate at Clairwood – Classic Illusion ran a four-length third behind Happy Archer. The winner went on to finish a 1.50-length third behind Princess Victoria in the Grade 1 Garden Province Stakes over 1600m at Greyville on Durban July Day. If one considers that Ebony Flyer finished just 0.75 lengths ahead in second and they all ran at level weights, Classic Illusion’s effort looks particularly useful.
She has an appropriate 56.5kg on her back, with topweight Always Al carrying 60kg and bottomweight Pessoa getting 53kg, which puts her in the middle of the weights. Kevin Shea takes the ride and they will jump from pole position.
Always Al’s last victory came at this course in a 1200m event in April. He has placed in his last four starts but has yet to win over this trip. Nevertheless, Sean Tarry has his yard in top form and this four-year-old son of Al Mufti has Anthony Delpech on his back. He is a strong front runner and will be looking to get to the front from barrier No 8.
Charles Laird has a strong three-horse coupling comprising Ransom Of Choice, Big Winter Chill and Chindit and one needs to respect the fact that Anton Marcus has chosen to ride Ransom Of Choice. He is a three-time winner, scoring twice over this distance. In his only other race over 1600m the Australian-bred gelding finished a 0.80-length third behind Cato Donata.
The three-year-old gelding had a short break from March to June and came to back to finish a nine-length eighth to Brown Penny over 1400m at Greyville but was found to be coughing after the race. He should be fitter with that run under his belt and will be more at home over this trip.
Although Marcus has first choice with the Laird yard, he has always been quite happy to stand down if a horse is not suited to his style of riding. That could be the case with Big Winter Chill. Marcus has ridden him twice and they count among his worst runs. The balance of his races have been split between Anthony Delpech and Raymond Danielson and it is Danielson who gets the nod this time.
Danielson has ridden him twice for a win and a 0.75-length second behind Fastnetrock. That was his penultimate start and a repeat of that effort could see the son of Western Winter go close. The one concern is that he finished unplaced in his only run at this track but that came after a layoff and the going was heavy.