Last year’s event produced something really special and the Gr3 Champion Juvenile Cup to be run at Fairview on Monday may well spawn something rather unique once again. After all, only time would prove how privileged the locals were to witness the dramatic tussle that saw hometown hero In A Rush down our current national champion miler Variety Club.
Gavin Smith trained the Eastern Cape’s champion juvenile In A Rush to beat Joey Ramsden’s Variety Club in the 2011 Champion Juvenile Cup, and reflecting back with the untold advantage of hindsight a year down the line, it really was a superequine effort by the Windrush colt.
Statistics don’t lie. In his next eight starts Variety Club would win six Group races and go second in the other two – both Group 1’s. His conquerors were Gimmethegreenlight in the Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and Jackson in the Gr1 Investec Cape Derby . So In A Rush stands in hallowed company, even if he is personally yet to win another race. In a further minor irony, he has moved cities and stands as a stablemate these days to Variety Club in the powerful Ramsden operation.
While the local powerhouses Smith and Greeff boast eleven of the eighteen acceptances, dual Cape and Port Elizabeth citizen Justin Snaith may have their measure and sends out two runners in Skippyjon Jones and the quite promising and interesting Captain Al colt, Sweep Forward. We like the look of the latter.
Sweep Forward is a handsome son of Captain Al who was considered able enough to make his racecourse debut in the Listed Somerset 1200 in the first week of April. He did not disgrace himself when running slightly green and then staying on for a 5,75 lengths fourth to The West Is Wide. The latter then came out and won the Gr3 Cape Nursery at his next outing to add strength to that formline.
Edge Of Reason
Sweep Forward also made his next outing a winning one, when he trounced subsequent winners Naval Attack and Ocean’s Edge. He was then tried over ground and ran a commendable fifth 5,30 lengths behind the hugely promising Cape Champion Juvenile nominee King Of Pain in the Gr3 Langerman run over 1500m at Kenilworth. The colt has a wide draw of 14 to overcome here, but the manner in which he stayed on in the Langerman indicates that he could well be up to this test.
Wayne Agrella rides Skippyjon Jones, who shed his maiden at this track last time out. He has yet to show the same promise as his stablemate, but is well drawn and could place.
Gavin Smith trained last year’s winner and he holds a powerful hand with six runners.
Le Var has excellent form and has won 2 of his 5 outings. He is held by Placido on their last run but won a very good race to win the Dahlia Stakes at his penultimate start. He has a powerful late turn of foot and will be well placed by jockey Francois Herholdt from a good draw.
Anton Marcus makes a rare seasonal appearance in the Eastern Cape and rides the Silvano gelding Sedge. He flattened Jetscreen at his last win over 1000m and is yet to be tried over the extra ground. He is by Silvano out of a Rakeen mare though, and should easily stay the trip. He is drawn towards the outside, but has the jockey power to negate that handicap.
Greenacre enjoys a pole position draw, and the East Cape Nursery winner looks a notch or two above average. He ran a cracker when travelling up to Turffontein on Champions Day when finishing third and 6,75 lengths off the top-class Soft Falling Rain in the SA Nursery. He was then asked a little too much, when sent to post for the Dahlia just a fortnight later and produced a flat run when 4,75 lengths behind Le Var. He may relish the extra 200m here and could go close if back to his best.
Jetscreen looked promising after winning at his second start, but has gone backwards since and is well held by Placido.
Zulu King rocked us like a bolt from the blue at long odds to win his maiden at his last. That was after six blank efforts, and he has a thing or three to prove here. He has the worst of the draw to overcome and we cannot fancy him.
Deepo is by far and away the leading female contender in the field. The daughter of Albert Hall has won her last three on the trot, and beat Inflorescence easing up by 3,25 lengths in the Lady’s Slipper at her last start. That was an excellent course and distance effort, but it remains to be seen how strong the fairer sex form is.
Smith’s arch rival Alan Greeff has five acceptances,including one reserve runner.
His challenge is headed by Placido who is the only 3 time winner in the field. He is a wonderful advert for his promising sire, Miesque’s Approval and has earned at all 7 career starts. He really is bang in form and goes for a winning hat-trick after pulverising his opposition at his last two outings. He was a course and distance winner at his last start, and has Le Var stone cold on that run.
Way Clear is a gelded son of Ashaawes who shed his maiden at his fourth start, beating the highly-rated Syndicator, who has failed to win at two subsequent starts. He seems to be improving and can challenge for a place cheque.
River Tyne has pulled a shocking draw but did run a fair third behind Deepo in the Lady’s Slipper. The boys may prove too strong for her though and she looks quite unlikely.
The Magic Kingdom is a another filly who won well enough on debut but has lost form since.She ran way downfield in the Lady’s Slipper and is well held by Deepo.
The travelling man, Corne Spies, saddles one of the four Vars in the field, in the two-time winning Lord Jonathan. He disappointed in the Langerman, but did run a nice second to Greenacre in the East Cape Nursery and a close-up fifth to the West Is Wide in the Cape Nursery. Like most of the Spies runners, he won’t lack for race fitness and is nicely drawn at 3.
With the jockey title race hotting up and only eight days left of the season, Jacques Strydom’s engagement of log leader Gavin Lerena is an interesting one. The young Gauteng jockey rides Tealion, a gelded son of Stronghold, who improved markedly when tried over the Arlington 1400m last time. He has a win over Placido to his credit, but it is probably fair to say that Placido has come along many lengths since that day at the end of January.
Joey Ramsden and Glen Hatt travel up from Cape Town with the smooth debut winner, Vauclair. The son of Var tries the turn for the first time and has drawn at 17. Unless he is showing the same potential as his illustrious stablemate Variety Club, he should battle to win this. He could be anything though and the horse he beat on debut, runs again at Kenilworth on Saturday 21 July. Scaky Phane gets the services of Anton Marcus on Saturday . We suggest punters watch how he goes and that may just add a measure of confidence or otherwise, in terms of form strength.
Le Var, Placido and Sedge have the homeground advantage and nice draws in their favour. Sweep Forward travels up with the Cape juvenile form arguing his case. It could all boil down to the predictable potent mix of experience and ability, and a dollop of luck in running from the draw.
This race was to have been run ten days ago, but this fact should not alter the readiness of any of the contestants. All told, we are not yet convinced that there is a Variety Club lurking here, but Snaith’s Sweep Forward is our choice to beat Placido and Sedge, with Le Var in the mix and likely to earn.