SEVEN feature races will be run, including the country’s premier long-distance race, the R1-million Gold Cup over 3200m, and the R700,000 Champions Cup over 1800m. We spoke to the trainers of some of the runners to find out what they think of their chances.
Chesney van Zyl (assistant trainer to Gavin van Zyl): I believe Seal (Gold Cup) is the horse to beat despite top weight. He carries this sort of weight every morning and has no problems. He’s earned the weight and has proved he’s a top horse. He’s fit, well and sound and working very well. Heavenisaracehorse (Premier’s Champion Stakes) is in the deep end, straight out of a Maiden Plate but I rate him highly. His work is good at home and I believe that he will run in the first four.
Nathan Kotzen (assistant trainer to Mike de Kock): Ilsanpietro (Gold Cup) had a good run on July day. He’s fit and well and I think he is one of the classier stayers in the race. I expect him to be right there. Gorongosa (Gold Cup) shows little in work. She stays well and this race is her mission. We like to give her a bit of a chance and I would prefer to see her midfield. Captain’s Wild’s (Gold Cup) last two runs have been frustrating. We don’t know if he stays but the way he runs, he should stay. He just has to get his act together. Vettel (Gold Cup) is a very nice horse. He stays well and as he gets older he will get better. He’s a lovely horse to work with. He is still maturing but is mature enough to win a race of this nature. He never stopped in the Durban July. Solo Traveller (Champions Cup) tends to lack a bit of early toe so we have put the blinkers on. He doesn’t want to travel in the early part but kicks on nicely. Maybe it’s the wrong race to start him in blinkers but you have to do it somewhere. He had a great July run. Lehaaf (Premier’s Champion Stakes) was a little bit disappointing last time but it was his first race at Clairwood. We just couldn’t get to Black Toga. We have to take him on again as well as War Horse but we’re hopeful of a good run. Checcetti (Gold Bracelet) ran a cracker last time. She needs a pace and the pace wasn’t on.
Vaughan Marshall: I have no doubts that Top Seller (Gold Cup) will stay this distance. His pedigree is interesting because it is filled with sprinters and stayers. The biggest challenge for us is whether he can slot in from a wide draw. If he does I think he will be right there at the finish. Tales Of Bravery (Champions Cup) came through the Durban July well. I do feel that he didn’t stay at the end of the day because he moved up well and had no more to come. He’s shown that he’s capable of winning at this level and he’s doing well at home. This is more his type of race and I think he will run a big race. Draw a line through All Is Secret’s (Thekwini Fillies Stakes) last run when she had a bad draw and things didn’t work out too well. I know she is a good filly and expect her to run a very big race. I have no doubts about campaigning Black Toga (Premier’s Champion Stakes) over 1600m at Greyville. He showed in his last run that he is a high-quality horse and he should run a big race at this level. I don’t think there is much between Act Fast (Premier’s Champion Stakes) and Black Toga. I’ve put blinkers on him and he’s shown good work at home. He should give a good account of himself. I have two big concerns about Tribal Dance (Darley Arabian). First of all, the drop of 300m in distance and the lack of any evident pace in the race, which reminds me of his Derby run (finished second after setting the pace). Having said that, he’s doing very well at home and I expect a big run. I feel Twitter (Race 1) drifted in the betting in his last run because he drew badly at Scottsville. He still ran a massive race, coming fourth in a Grade 1. He’s a classy horse and I expect him to just about win. Kuja (Race 2) is in a competitive handicap and he has put in some in-and-out performances. I think he could run well.
Sean Tarry: Kolkata (Ladbrokes Gold Cup) was blowing slightly after the Gold Vase, but not excessively. He needed the run. He had only had the 1600m race two weeks before it so how would he be fit for a 3000m event just two weeks later? The telling factor was that he pulled in the race. He ran second last year and is a year older and a year stronger – but the field is tougher. We have a good jockey in Piere Strydom and a good draw. He ticks all the right boxes. Aslan (Gold Cup) has had a good preparation. We were disappointed with his last run but he is not straightforward and can do that. He runs well for Brandon Lerena. Gold Onyx (Champions Cup) is not well treated at the weights but is very well. Whiteline Fever’s (Champions Cup) preparation has gone well. I’m going to put blinkers on him and I give him a chance. Buy And Sell (Champions Cup) is well, has a good draw and will ensure a good pace. If they let him escape as he did in the Cup Trial he could well surprise. Fire Wheel (Thekwini Stakes) has had a good preparation and will be better suited to the 1600m where she will be able to race a lot handier. I give her a chance. Everything went wrong for The Hangman (Premier’s Champion Stakes) last time. It was a comedy of errors. The horse has come through it well and will be better suited to 1600m. He has a big action and can be right there. Happy Archer (Gold Bracelet) is stepping up to 2000m. I’m not sure she will stay but on pedigree she should. Anton Marcus knows her well and will settle her over 2000m. Heavy Metal’s (Darley Arabian) preparation has gone smoothly and I’m expecting a massive run. He’s decent horse and the best is yet to come. I was very pleased with Cool Spender’s (Umngeni Handicap) two comeback runs. I’ve put the blinkers on and am expecting a big run.
Geoff Woodruff: Princess Of Light (Gold Cup) travelled well and arrived (on Wednesday) morning fresh as a daisy. She was bucking (on arrival) which is a good sign. She’s had a few good gallops up in Joburg recently so is well. In the Gold Bowl she may not have seen out the distance but I think the short-run in at Greyville will assist her. This will be her last run before she heads to stud. Soul Master’s (Gold Cup) first run at Greyville was a good effort. He may have been caught out by the slow pace and finished in a heap with plenty of the runners he meets here. He will need to be tucked in because I feel he runs his best races from off the pace. It was a disastrous effort in the Golden Horseshoe, but Sabadell (Premier’s Champion Stakes) was cleaned up at the start and that was him. Piere Strydom’s comment to me after the race was not to judge him on that run. He came back to Joburg and I wasn’t going to run him in this race but he drew well and you don’t get many chances to win a Grade 1 as a two-year-old so we taking our chances. I think Red Fort (Darley Arabian) will be much better as a four-year-old and I’m setting him up to be a Summer Cup horse. In the Derby Felix Coetzee said he gave him a good feel. He looks well weighted. There is no evidence of any pace in the race and I’m happy if we dictate ourselves.
Robert Fayd’Herbe (assistant trainer to Mike Bass): Croc Valley (Gold Cup) has come well in Durban. She had a break and bounced back well. She is my choice of our four runners. I believe she stays. Her full-brother Komatipoort stays all day. Jeppe’s Reef (Gold Cup) ran a good fourth last year. He’s drawn badly but is well weighted and will give a good account of himself. Write off Thanks John’s (Gold Cup) last run. He raced wide the whole journey and never got into the race. He is well and drawn at No 8 and if they can get him into the race he is a big runner. Golden Parachute (Gold Cup) hasn’t seemed to come back to himself yet. We’re just hoping for a fair run from him. He stays all day. Castlethorpe (Champions Cup) is well weighted and is in fine fettle. Some 10 days before the Durban July he had a bit of a temperature. We thought of not running him but did and in retrospect it was probably the wrong decision. He’s bounced back to himself and his work is good. Chesalon (Champions Cup) had an excellent Durban July run. If he can reproduce that run he is definitely the horse to beat. He will be better suited to the 1800m. He has his problems and that last little bit, he faltered. Captain’s Secret (Umngeni Handicap) is the proverbial bridesmaid but is doing well. Ignore his last run as he got caught wide and pulled.
Corne Spies: Heyouneverknow (Gold Cup) just turned the corner a couple of months ago from a mediocre horse who I thought we needed to get rid of to a feature-race contender. She is at her best now. She ran on from stone last to run fifth in the Gold Vase. I’m just hoping she takes more interest in the race so we have a better chance in the short straight. If she is within striking distance she could trouble them. She has an amazing turn of foot. I do prefer the filly to Campo De Santana (Gold Cup) but if it rains you can banker him. If not, he is an inclusion at best. He ran a cracker in the Gold Vase to finish sixth. Straight Set (Thekwini Stakes) has beaten most of the runners in this field. There is no question she will stay the 1600m. I can’t really see anything to make me worry but that makes me worry because maybe I’m missing something. Five Rings (Thekwini Stakes) is still a maiden so we are out at the weights. She is very nice filly, is suited to 1600m and has run second to some reasonable horses. The reason she’s running is that she landed a good draw. If she runs a place she gets black type in a Grade 1 race, which it would be wonderful. But I can’t see her beating Straight Set. We have taken note of Black Toga’s runs but I still cannot see him beating War Horse (Premier’s Champion Stakes). He should enjoy the extra 200m. After his bad run in the SA Nursery we gave him some time off. He was a half-baked egg on Durban July Day but I thought we should give him a look at the course and go for this race. He is a really good horse I would be disappointed if he got beaten. Black Toga has won in good fashion but he has not beaten the quality of field we have. We will find out on Saturday. Horses like this come along once in a guy’s career. At the moment it’s a nice ride and we will have to see where it takes us. They all travelled well. I’m really positive as far as the racing is concerned.
Gary Alexander: Pierre Jourdan (Champions Cup) jumped a bit slowly in the Durban July and by the time he caught up the field had closed in on him so he had to race from last. Under the circumstances it was a good run with top weight because he did run on late. On Saturday he’s competitive because it’s a conditions race so he is well weighted. He’s well within himself. We do have a bad draw but I guess that we have to deal with it.
Duncan Howells: King Of Torts (Premier’s Champion Stakes) is a nice type of horse and won a Maiden Plate well. He has a bad draw to overcome and takes on a higher calibre of horse but will give a good account of himself. He will be a top-class three-year-old and I have high hopes for him. Tetelestai (Umngeni Handicap) loves Greyville and needed his last run badly. I was impressed with the way he ran on, giving the winner some weight. I expect him to be very competitive. Pinot Noir (Race 2) is a phenomenon at work but it depends which horse rocks up on the day. He’s dropped about four divisions for this race. If he brings his best to the races he will be competitive. I’m battling to find a race for Aspiritas (Race 11) so I’ve put him in this Pinnacle Stakes with a light weight. He can run a place at best.
Tony Rivalland: The field for the Thekwini Stakes looked rather weak apart from the Marshall and Spies horses so I thought I’d take my chance and hope for some black type with Tappin’ The Stars. She’s in the deep end but I hope she can run a place. If the real Mr Mickey Mouse (Umngeni Handicap) turns up he can win a race like this. This is an interesting race because so many horses are capable of winning but a lot of them have in-and-out form which puts all our rivals in the same boat. He is nursing a few niggles so may need to be rested after this run but he’s as well as he can be and should run well.
Kumaran Naidoo: Everybody says King’s Temptress’ (Thekwini Fillies Stakes) first run for me was such a poor effort but she was only with me for seven days and the owner wanted her to run in the Grade 1. We all saw how good her last run was and she will relish this distance. She is doing very well at home and I feel she will run a massive race. Furious Dancer (Umngeni Handicap) is doing well at home and I think he has a serious winning chance. Manjur (Race 2) has solid form. I feel he is better down the straight but he has a good draw. He comes off a slight rest but his work is good and he will run well. I think Dolomite (Race 4) will go close. He takes a massive drop in class and despite a bad draw I think he will run a big race. His work has been superb and he is the pick of my coupling. In his last run Chicago Fire (Race 4) went to the front and faded. The going was too hard for him and he returned lame. Maybe he can place.
Tyrone Zackey: I put Code Napoleon (Race 2) on the sand and his two bad runs might be because he doesn’t quite stay. The sand changes from meeting to meeting so that may explain his recent form. He’s a horse who needs to be kept balanced in the race. I’d like to think he can run into the Quartets. Zebulon (Race 4) ran on Tuesday and came back all right so will go to Durban. He has won at this course before so has shown that he can compete on both sand and turf. The field does not seem to be filled with anything going to Hollywood so I’m taking my chances and I think he could be a winner.
Joey Soma: I’ve been in racing my whole life and I’m shocked that Senorita Casey (Thekwini Fillies Stakes) is even running in a Grade 1 race. This has to be one of the weakest I’ve seen. There are three maidens so I thought that, since my filly has at least won a race, I have to take my chances. She’s honest and working well and I will be happy if she runs in the first four.
Mike Miller: Fast Jet (Thekwini Fillies Stakes) is running with blinkers on for the first time and her work with them has been good. She’s a big, lovely filly and is well. With just 11 horses in a shallow field I thought we had to take our chances. My concern is that she might find this distance a bit too short because she’s looking for 2000m.
Dennis Drier: Beach Beauty (Gold Bracelet) has come out of the Durban July well and I’m expecting a big run. She took a bump before they turned and never really got going in the straight. It was always going to be hard for her, being such a small filly with that weight and then with a bump – it was race over at the top of the straight. She is well and is a huge runner. Never Forever and Punta Del Este (Umgeni Handicap) are both soldiers and if I had to choose I’d have to say that Punta Del Este may have a slight edge. However, Never Forever was unlucky on Durban July Day when racing wide and can fight this out.