A classic lucky-dip awaits punters at Clairwood on Sunday where the factor of the draw, sketchy form and downright unreliability clouds the analysis. If your lucky number is anywhere between one and sixteen, you could well pinpoint the winner of the Listed East Coast Handicap.
Legendary retired champion jockey Garth Puller is credited with having suggested that the letters ‘F &M’ in the title or description of a race cautions the exotic bet application of ‘fields and more’, over and above the obvious industry standard. Sunday’s Clairwood feature race adds weight to the ‘Head Waiter’s’ educated theory, which was borne out of almost a half-century of experience and not dreamt up overnight.
The Listed East Coast Handicap has drawn a field of sixteen ladies, ranging from improving three year olds to seven year old mares, who would probably rather be playing house at this stage of their careers. A real cross-section of liquorice all-sorts with no genuine standout runner in the race.
But would it not be so very boring if we found a Variety Club around every street corner, week in and week out? So a nightmare for punters by all accounts, and a race where wide would not be a waste line!
Half of the field running on Sunday ran in the Listed Scarlet Lady at Scottsville on the Worker’s Day Public Holiday. This could be an entirely different story though, as we switch from a right-handed marginally inland track to a sea-level left-handed track and go 200m further, on what is still one of the fairest racecourses in South Africa. And sadly a venue apparently soon to be consigned to the scrap-heap of history. But this is not the forum to debate that tragedy.
Mike De Kock could go on holiday for the rest of the season and still win the champion trainer title by a few bar. His charges are always a factor and he sends out a fair coupling in the three year olds Viva Maria and the Australian-bred Tajmeel. At first glance, jockey choice would suggest that the latter is the stable elect, but boy oh boy, we have learnt expensive lessons in the past when it comes to relying on the judgement of jockeys. Even the good ones get it wrong.
First choice jockey Anthony Delpech rides the Nadeem filly Tajmeel, who looked to be progressing just fine, having won two of her three starts easily. That was before she stepped into the Gr2 KRA Fillies Guineas at Greyville two weeks ago. She moved up against the steel on the Greyville outside rail at the 350m marker with the commentator doing gleeful semantic somersaults, but then just went up and down like a feeble broken yoyo. That was not highly impressive.
She eventually finished 6,30 lengths off her stable companion Amanee . It is possible that Tajmeel may have found the mile a trifle pressing at Group level and it is worth nothing that her dam won up to 2400m. Her young sire, despite producing milers, is also bred on staying lines, and his dam won the Oaks in New Zealand. It is thus quite possible that Tajmeel will be more at home over the 2000m of this race. She has the extreme outside draw to contend with and if anything, this will make it a more strenuous test for her and possibly count in her favour. If that makes sense.
In A While
Interestingly, Tajmeel and the Mike Bass mare, Croc Valley, who jumps from the best draw share the same 2nd dam and their first dams, in line breeding terms are the equivalent of 97.27% to 9 generations. The term half-sisters can be loosely used here – but there is far more than that in their makeup. Tajmeel and Croc Valley are 84.57% equivalents to 9 generations.
We aren’t too excited by Croc Valley, but like most De Kock runners, Tajmeel warrants inclusion and could carry the family crest with distinction.
Her stablemate Viva Maria won three of her first four starts but then went missing in the Oaks Trial in the first week of April at Turffontein, when fading out of it. Her promising second in the Scarlet Lady though does bring her into it. While she has won over the course and distance, Viva Maria’s style of running may not be best suited to Clairwood, with a home straight than can catch the best front-runners napping.
Over The Hill
Alec Laird makes a rare visit from Gauteng with our sneaky first choice, Himalayan Hill. This grey four-time winning daughter of Fort Wood has run three seconds from 2000m to 2600m at her last three outings and is overdue to visit the best place on the racecourse.
She ran a terrific second to the top-class Gorongosa in the Listed Spook Express when staying on very smartly. She is a versatile sort that can run handy, or even at them late, and is blessed with many of her seven-time winning mother’s characteristics in terms of heart and fight. Although not quite as brilliant.
The rather forlorn , but not yet defeated, figure of Muzi Yeni jumps on her back and this may be the tonic that the talented jockey needs to beat his lean spell. He is battling to regain the recent sunny days when he looked to be threatening for the SA Jockey title.
Mark Dixon’s Head Of The House won the Scarlet Lady going away with a powerful late run from way off the pace and the daughter of Mogok has hit the form of her life well into her fifth year. She goes up in the weights and also has a rather nasty 15 draw to contend with. She has also only won three races, but is lightly weighted and will be given every chance and no doubt dropped out by promising apprentice Keagan De Melo. This is her first try at 2000m and she should love every inch of the trip. There is plenty of pace in the race and she will not be stopping when a few of the other flowers are wilting around her in the final 200m.
Down and Under
Glen Kotzen’s Queen’s Command is one of five Australian-breds in the race and this daughter of Commands seldom runs a poor race. She didn’t put her best foot forward when showing none of her usual chutzpah in the Scarlet Lady and running a rather ordinary sixth and 4,85 lengths off Head Of The House. But let’s just assume that Scottsville is not her favourite hunting ground. She won the Flamboyant Stakes over a mile at Greyville on New Year’s Day, and has a touch of class about her. She should be involved in the finish if running to her best.
A mare that catches the eye on her best past form is Des Scott’s daughter of Galileo, Dance To The Stars, who ran on well for fifth in the Scarlet Lady. The five-time winner finished 4,75 lengths off and was running on steadily. She is closer to Head Of The House on the handicap here and may prefer the extra 200m. She gets the blinkers back on.
Joey Ramsden is represented by the well weighted and superbly drawn mare Atair, who has shown glimpses of her best form recently. The Lammerskraal owned and bred daughter of Rakeen gets the services of Nuresh Juglall, and could surprise them if she manages to escape and steal a march. It may be easier getting out of Alcatraz though.
What A Feeling
Greg Ennion sends out the one-time Bookies’ girlfriend Feel My Love, who earned her ticket to Durban courtesy of a smart win under Justine King over 2000m at Kenilworth in an MR 82 Handicap last time. She has won four from thirteen and is a filly who may rise to the occasion with the benefit of the long home straight and the services of the cucumber- cool Raymond Danielson.
Brett Crawford’s one-time winning German-bred three year old Magical Eve, has pulled a 16 draw and while she is ridden by Karis Teetan, who is riding winners all over town, it is difficult to see her winning this. With our fancy Himalayan Hill, she also carries the famous brown and white silks but Mrs Rhona Beck will probably prefer the grey Gauteng raider to her.
Walkies and Talkies
MJ Byleveld and his boss Vaughan Marshall could send out the stable Jack Russel to win a top division greyhound feature if they really wanted to brag, and this hot form combination are represented by the lightly-raced Aussie Dubai Gina. The daughter of Dubai Destination has won three from seven, but returns from a four-month leave of absence and her fitness needs to be taken on trust. She was also scratched from an engagement on 6 April with a hoof abscess, which is rather worrying.
There is a sizeable group in this race which would ordinarily be labelled as optimistic dreamers and field fillers. But as we have suggested, it is a punting minefield, the rain may come to the party and stranger things have happened. So while it is difficult to make a case for the likes of Mary Hinge, Rapid Flow, Saltwater Girl and Satin Silver, they are all capable on their day of running out of their proverbial skulls, and might be worth inclusion. Particularly, if their saddle-cloth numbers tally with your lotto or lucky numbers.
We are expecting Muzi Yeni to turn his bad run on its head and bring Alec Laird’s Himalayan Hill home from the ever-consistent Queen’s Command. Head Of The House should be finishing well. Then Tajmeel and Atair could be hanging in for a slice of the place money action, while Dance To The Stars could raise her game and run a cracker. There has got to be a nice quartet for the winning here somewhere. Go wide!