Stamina doubts lie at the heart of unravelling the R750 000 Gr2 SA Oaks puzzle at Turffontein on Saturday. Only four of the thirteen three year old fillies have tried the 2450m trip previously and then only with mixed success.
Saturday’s race is the third leg of the prestigious Triple Tiara. The first leg, the Gauteng Fillies Guineas, was won by Go Indigo at long odds. The SA Fillies Classic was the second leg and there Dennis Drier’s Bambina Stripes won in breathtaking style. Neither of these winners turn up on Saturday to try their luck over more ground.
The brilliant Igugu donned the tiara last year and went on to win her next four starts, which included the Vodacom Durban July and the J&B Met. While there are patently no Igugu-type superstars in this year’s field, it is still a fascinating contest to unravel and a great race to win. Coupled, with the bonus of a sales catalogue page booster for the future.
A sure sign of the times is that the present stake of R750 000 has also been static since Bedloe’s Island won it in 2009, having increased that year from R400 000 in 2008. Phumelela have confirmed that negotiations are well advanced to sell the Triple Tiara as a sponsors package.
Hound or Ground?
The Tyrone Zackey-trained Katy’s Lane stands out as a likely winner of this event. The R35 000 Cheveley Stud bred has already earned in excess of R420 000. Like most Zackey horses, she will run barefoot on Saturday.
While she will get the very best professional attention from Piere Strydom in the saddle, the leading question is – will she stay a potentially true-run 2450m? Her breeding tells us, maybe not.
Katy’s Lane’s Irish-bred sire Tamburlaine, a son of Royal Academy, was labelled a classy miler during his racing career and produced the Gr3 Three Troikas 1450m winner, Sharp Mistress. In this fickle world, a lack of local support saw him relocated to Zimbabwe recently.
Katy’s Lane is a dual Gr3 winner at 1400m and 1600m. Another of Tamburlaine’s better performed daughters is Control Freak, who arrived from Zimbabwe unbeaten in 8 starts from 1000m to a mile. She failed to assert herself in the first two legs of the Triple Tiara. Katy’s Lane’s dam Beautiful Piper won her two races at 1000m and 1200m but none of her progeny have gone further than a mile. And that appears to be the optimum performance barrier.
One has got to be impressed though by the way Katy’s Lane was running on to win both the Starling Stakes and the Fillies Mile. Her style of stretching punctuality means that she does run the risk of encountering rush-hour traffic in her late arrival at the point of action. And that is precisely what happened when she finished 4,75 lengths off Go Indigo in the Fillies Guineas. She was also reported not striding out that day.
While a mile realistically looks the top of the family range, her most recent run in the Fillies Classic over 1800m was an excellent effort. In a blanket finish she showed resolution to stay on for a 0,75 length fourth to Bambina Stripes. That after being made more use of than she probably prefers.
A filly that could well give the Zackey runner the most to think about is Mike De Kock’s grey Fort Wood filly Ilha Bela, who is yet to win at anything higher than MR 84 level. That was an 1800m event, which bodes well for the stamina doubting Thomases. She was running on steadily and not disgraced for nice cheques in both the Fillies Guineas and Fillies Classic. The fact that Anton Marcus sides with her again, is also a positive sign.
Her dam, the unforgettable little grey Ilha Da Vitoria, who also campaigned in the black and scarlet Wilgerbosdrift silks, was a multiple Group winner but was never tried beyond 2000m in her ten-race winning career. She ran second in the both the Gr1 Triple Tiara 1600 and the Gr2 SA Fillies Classic of 2004, beaten by two top-class contemporaries in Promisefrommyheart and Angelina. Ilha Da Vitoria’s sire Candy Stripes, who died from colic in 2007 at age 25, produced some top-class milers as well as the American horse of the year Invasor who showed his best form at 2000m.
Ilha Da Vitoria’s other daughter Ilha Grande, by Tiger Ridge, ran third in this race last year and then disappeared into the mists of time. Ilha Bela looks infinitely more talented though and being by Fort Wood, we can probably fairly assume that she will stay the 2450m of this race.
Robbie Sage sends out Kalami, who ran out of her skin to get closest to Bambina Stripes in the Fillies Classic, after looking a winner 50 meters out. That was on yielding going which may well have accounted for her improvement. She won her maiden over 1900m at Clairwood, so should handle the trip.
Stallion Albert Hall has only one lot on this weekend’s Sale, but has been registering the winners recently. His daughter Avenue Of Gold is a two time winner who has no stamina doubts, having won over the Turffontein 2500m. She ran poorly in the Fillies Classic though and she may not be up to the test at Gr2 level.
Ormonde Ferraris’ daughter of Mogok, Markofdistinction, won the Oaks Trial three weeks ago. That was commendably her third win from seven starts. She is an improving sort who looks to be making all the right noises. Winston Chow’s filly is also looking a terrific buy at R40 000 off the Two Year Old Sale and she has the beating of the Geoff Woodruff-trained Alessandria, who finished 1,25 lengths behind her in the Oaks Trial when receiving 1,5kgs from her.
Alessandria stays the distance of Saturday’s race, having run a fair third to Corne Spies’ Heyouneverknow in the Sun Chariot in mid March. She is a fairly one-paced sort who could burgle a cheque if allowed to do things her way.
The stamina question lingers, but it all boils down to two champion jockeys on two upwardly mobile three year old fillies going down a road they haven’t travelled before.
Ilha Bela has all the right family credentials. Her trainer, her breeding and her owners. They do this big race thing week in and week out. Year in and year out.
We are going with the underdogs though. Go Indigo showed when winning the first leg of the Triple Tiara that no matter who you are or where you come from, all that counts is being in front at the right moment. And we believe Katy’s Lane will show the same side to Ilha Bela as Go Indigo did in the Fillies Guineas. Markofdistinction and Alessandria could squabble over the minor money.