Mike Bass’ brilliant sprinter What A Winter goes back to basics when he contests the R600 000 Gr1 Mercury Sprint at Clairwood on Saturday. If close to anything near his best, he should turn his opposition inside out, in a race he is weighted to win.
The four year old son of Western Winter has taken his brilliant veteran trainer on an emotional rollercoaster ride of dizzying proportions in a sixteen run career that has seen him win fifty percent of his starts. His last two runs are both worth ignoring. He was not striding out when running a shocker in the Golden Horse Casino Sprint, and then ran a tame fifth behind champion miler Variety Club in the Gr1 Gold Challenge. What A Winter is a smashing sprinter on his day, and deserves nothing less than to end a rocky season on a high.
Reflecting back now on his stunning win in the 2010 Gr2 Selangor Cup, we must probably accept that he won that on sheer guts, courage and class and has subsequently shown that, while he is a brilliant sprinter at his best, he really is just an ordinary miler at the top level. We are giving him another chance here to show his real worth at his best game, when he is fit and sound.
What A Winter last won a week prior to Christmas of 2011, when he bolted clear to beat the top-class Ebony Flyer in the Gr2 Diadem Stakes over 1200m at Kenilworth. He had all of Copper Parade, Delago Deluxe and Shades Of Indigo comprehensively beaten there at level weights. He then bounced back a month later when going down narrowly to the Var star Val De Ra in the Cape Flying Championship over 1000m.
His next start launched his current temporary form slump. Travelling to Johannesburg to have a rightful tilt at the R1 million Gr1 Computaform Sprint, he was never in it and run off his feet by a flying Shea Shea. What A Winter went down in third position and 3,25 lengths off the winner. He then came out a month later to run that shocker in the Golden Horse Casino Sprint and ran two weeks later when a tame 3,75 length fifth to Variety Club.
We often speak of hindsight in this game, and there are probably a few things Mike Bass would do differently with What A Winter’s programme if he had the chance. He starts all over again here and the word is out that he is working up a storm. If that information is accurate, then they won’t stand a chance on Saturday and are all running for second.
Leading owner partnership Ingrid and Markus Jooste won this race with Our Giant in 2009 and have two runners representing them on Saturday. Golden Horse Casino Sprint winner Delago Deluxe and old faithful Rushing Wind carry the familiar black, green and yellow silks and there can be no question that the former is their major hope.
Charles Laird trains this former champion juvenile who we believe will be headed for the Klawervlei Paddocks when his racing career is over. A winner of 7 of his 11 starts, the Australian-bred Delago Deluxe came into his own as a late 3yo when winning the Gr1 Golden Horse Casino Sprint at the end of May- on an afternoon that has been analysed to oblivion in view of the influential track surface.
He was getting all of 6kgs from What A Winter when beating him 8,30 lengths in the Golden Horse, and now goes up 5,5kgs in the weights. That wasn’t the Bass horses run, and that weight swing may be too close for comfort for this smart 3yo on Saturday. Bernard Fayd’herbe will have to keep a sharp eye on Anton Marcus, who has a knack of rolling out front and not coming back to his field.
Ormonde Ferraris’ Snowdon is an interesting 4yo who has never been regarded as a genuine sprinter. He ran a terrific race when chasing Delago Deluxe home in the Golden Horse Casino Sprint, and now only gives the Laird horse a half kilo as opposed to 1,5kgs there for a 1,25 length beating. He has his second run after a rest now, but his recent formline is consistent and he must be regarded a serious danger.He has his first run at Clairwood.
Joey Ramsden’s Copper Parade is a Gr1 winner who has not won a race for over a year. One gets the feeling that he just needs a minor change of luck to get back into the winner’s enclosure, and has finished close-up in his last few starts. He has a winning turnaround with Mike’s Choice on their last meeting in the Durban Merchants, where Copper Parade finished a length behind conceding 4kgs. They are at level weights on Saturday.
Michael Roberts Mike’s Choice is highly rated by his connections, and while some way out on the handicap, he is bang in form following his terrific Merchants win and could earn a place cheque.
The Malhub 3yo Midnight Serenade is another Gauteng visitor and represents the Diane Stenger stable. He is only a three-time winner who has a best credit of a Listed feature win as a 2yo, and while game and fast, should battle on these weight terms.
Chocolicious is a Gr1 winning super-fast daughter of Kahal who will jump on the inside of What A Winter. She has won over 1200m, but is realistically better suited to 1000m and should find it tough getting just 2,5kgs from the Bass star.
The others look under some pressure to assert themselves at this level.
Paul Peter’s Magico is a shadow of the horse that won the Var Syndicate sponsored Durban Dash over 1000m at this track in mid 2011 by 6,25 lengths. This son of Dupont has won at Gr3 level, but all of his wins have been at 1000m, and he appears to have limitations beyond that trip. His connections tried the sand at his last outing, with disastrous consequences, and he looks pressed to earn here.
The Argentinian-bred Antious won five on the trot from 1000m to 1600m, but has lost the plot at his last two outings. After running 8,40 lengths last behind Castlethorpe in a Pinnacle Plate over this course and distance, when he was reported coughing, he ran second to last in the Gr1 Golden Horse Casino Sprint when 11,05 lengths behind Delago Deluxe. He is a fair sort, but will need to improve dramatically.
Rushing Wind is the second of the Bass runners, and this perennial bridesmaid finally got his act together at his last outing when staying on strongly under a perfect Fayd’herbe ride to get the better of Galileo’s Destiny in a 1500m Allowance Plate. That was the former Gr3 Matchem Stakes winner’s first win in two years, and he is just a very capable gelding who also runs on – inevitably when it is too late. He did run a cracker in the Golden Horse Casino Sprint when dashing through late for fifth. Delago Deluxe appears to have his measure again.
Lance Wiid’s Winking Jack comes down from Gauteng and this seven year old shows plenty of pace, but battles to keep going these days. His major claim to fame is probably the fact that his sire Super Magic won this race in 1999. He should not trouble the more fancied runners.
The grey Shades Of Indigo was a shock winner of the Cape Merchants last year at long odds and this game son of Indigo Magic has his 48th career start for Joey Ramsden on Saturday. He ran on well when third in the Golden Horse Casino Sprint, but did not produce any spark in the Durban Merchants at his last outing. He is another who is held by Delago Deluxe.
Sean Tarry enjoyed a wonderful Vodacom Durban July win last Saturday, but he won’t have any high-flying expectations here as his Goldkeeper mare Give Me Five has lost her form and appears to be making up the numbers in this event.
In a race handsomely endowed with pace, we expect to see What A Winter running at the front-runners late and regaining his superstar title at the expense of Snowdon and Delago Deluxe. Copper Parade is threatening to produce a big moment, while Mike’s Choice surprised a few of us when winning the Merchants last time, and has an impressive consistent recent record.