The first of three Gr2 events to take place on what is a tremendous afternoon’s racing at Turffontein on Saturday is the Hawaii Stakes over 1400m. Best in at the weights are the July runner up Pierre Jourdan, and the multiple Gr1 winning mare Dancewiththedevil. In what is a truly mouthwatering contest though, neither are home and hosed, writes Steve Furnish.
Shouldering topweight of 60kg is one of four representatives from the stable of Mike De Kock, Solo Traveller. Formerly with Cape based trainer Justin Snaith, this son of Western Winter won both the Cape and KZN Guineas last season. He was given a break after finishing down field in Champions Cup in July, but he did then show his well being when flying up late from the rear to finish third behind his new stable companion Kavanagh in a pinnacle event over 1450m at the inner track on his return to action last month. He’s sure to strip fitter here, but he is now 4kg worse off with Kavanagh and out at the weights with most, he clearly has a very stiff task.
As well as finishing third in the Dingaans last season, Kavanagh was also placed in both the Cape and Gauteng Guineas. Interestingly though, he has gained most of his career wins around 1400m and is in fact unbeaten in three starts over today’s course and distance. He’s in good form at the moment having won two of his last four outings and stable jockey Anthony Delpech takes the ride. Effective in both good and soft ground, Kavanagh is well treated at the weights with most here and although he doesn’t have the best of the draw, he should be involved in the finish.
The best in at the weights of Mike’s runners is the 4yo daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar, Gibraltar Blue. Effective over all distances up to a mile, Gibraltar Blue has exceptional gate speed and very favourably drawn here, she could be in command of a very useful advantage as the thirteen runners turn for home. She was once rated three points higher by the official handicapper than she is today and if at her very best here she would certainly be in with a shout. She was a little disappointing in her two most recent outings over 1600m in the Cape, but Anton Marcus does stay with her and the shorter trip here could now suit.
Making up the champion trainer’s quartet is the 4yo Galileo’s Destiny. Formerly with Charles Laird, this Australian bred son of Galileo placed in numerous top class features last season and is clearly close to the best of his generation. Prior to finishing down field in the July last time out, Galileo’s Destiny had never missed the frame. He’s usually seen out over further and returning from a seven month break here, there has to be concerns. He was only beaten 1,2 lengths by Kavanagh in the 2010 running of the Gr3 Graham Beck Stakes at this circuit in his only previous outing over today’s distance though, and fairly drawn here he would hold some kind of a chance if fully tuned up.
2011 was a year never to be forgotten for the champion mare Dancewiththedevil. At her best down the long galloping straight of this circuit, St John Gray’s charge won four Gr1 events last season, amongst them the prestigious Summer Cup. Equally effective in soft going, Dancewiththedevil commands a very powerful turn of foot and is sure to be flying at the death. She is having her first start since winning the Summer Cup here and as most of her eight career victories attest, she would ideally prefer further. Bigger targets are no doubt in mind for Dancewiththedevil and connections will be happy just to see her running on stoutly at the finish. She is very well weighted here though and if not caught for early toe could pop up.
Had it not been for the subsequent July runner up Irish Flame, this son of Parade Leader would have followed in the footsteps of the legendary Horse Chestnut in 2010 and become only the second horse in history to win all three legs of South Africa’s Triple Crown. Gary Alexander’s charge has also since finished a runner up in the July and interestingly, he does now have a merit rating superior to that awarded to Irish Flame when beating him in the Gauteng Derby. He’s in great form at the moment having recently won the Gr2 Charity Mile and although he is more often than not seen out over further these days, he has gained six of his nine career victories around today’s distance.
As well as Pierre Jourdan, trainer Gary Alexander is also represented by both Rebel Knight and Arabian Mist. Despite being sparingly raced over the past twelve months, Rebel Knight’s merit rating has risen seventeen points. He’s without a win since March, but he does go well around today’s distance and at the weights should be thereabouts.
Other than winning the last two runnings of the Gauteng Merchants, Arabian Mist has only filled a place in the Trifecta on three occasions in 22 starts. One of those placings surprisingly though, was when finishing a runner up in this race last season. He’s not made the frame at all since then though and pitched in against what looks to be a much stronger field than last season, he is not easy to fancy.
The Western Winter colt Snowdon finished close up in both the Dingaans and Gauteng Guineas last season and as with most of the 4yo’s here is close to the best of his generation. He showed real guts and determination when rallying back to beat Kavanagh after being headed over today’s distance at the Vaal last time out and he is now 1kg better off at the weights with Mike De Kock’s charge. He has a pull at the weights with all except Pierre Jourdan and Dancewiththedevil here and Piere Strydom, who rode him for the first time last time out, stays with him.
An interesting runner here is the 6yo son of Kitalpha Moroccan. Usually seen out sprinting, Weiho Marwing’s charge finished third in the Gr1 Golden Horse Casino Sprint over 1200m at Scottsville two seasons ago. He’s been sparingly raced since then, but he has come to hand nicely since returning from his latest break in October. He did well around today’s distance many moons ago and might just make the back end of the quartet.
The best weighted of Michael Azzie’s two runners is the 5yo Two Tone. This son of Strike Smartly is yet to score beyond 1200m, but he has done well around today’s distance and he was running on in his latest outing following a three month break, when 2,2 lengths behind Kavanagh in January.
At his best from the front, Lochlorien goes particularly well around today’s distance. He is more often than not campaigned on sand though where he has gained three of his four career victories. Indeed, he’s not won on turf since shedding his maiden tag in Mar ’09 and worst in at the weights here, he cannot be fancied.
About The Pace
With Gibraltar Blue and Lochlorien having proven to be at their best from the front, a good pace should be forthcoming. Pierre Jourdan is at the top of his game at the moment and with the weights in his favour, over a distance that he has proven to be particularly effective, he should at least fight out the finish.