Inclement weather has played havoc in recent weeks with Western Cape racing, but the local product makes a welcome return to the national centre stage on Saturday with the delayed running of the R138 000 Gr3 Champagne Stakes run at WFA over 1200m at Kenilworth. The fillies and mares feature heads a bumper Kenilworth ten-race programme and we are holding thumbs that Mother Nature plays ball.
A field of twelve runners goes to post for what looks a relatively straightforward jackpot closing leg.
The in-form Justin Snaith–Richard Fourie combination look to have an excellent chance of making it a double with the classy Comtesse Dubois, after the team won it with Drakenstein Stud’s State Blue last year.
We have observed from time to time that the local racing gods have come under fire in recent months down in the fairest Cape on matters of winter season programming. After last weekend’s wretched weather with gale force winds and 45mm of rain falling in under 24 hours, nobody can be blamed for these occurrences. One hopes then that this competitive little feature will raise the morale and spirits, and put some much needed sparkle back into the local product.
The purists are also well catered for with all the carded runners carrying 60kgs in a weight-for-age event that should see the best horse winning. It is a worry though that the fitter horses are amongst the lesser lights and the race could develop into a battle of class over match fitness. And we all know who usually comes out tops in these instances.
The family raiding team of Gauteng trainer Louis Goosen and Durban July winning rider Piere Strydom should also add a dimension of interest through the participation of the mare, Jolly Poppins – who interestingly, like the Snaith runner, is a Maine Chance Stud bred daughter of Count Dubois.
Barry Irwin’s Team Valor International have struck gold with the acquisition of one good South African-bred filly after the next, and the very smart Comtesse Dubois meets all of the criteria they seek in terms of ability, blood and conformation. While she has just turned four years of age, there is a little matte
r of a Group win absent from her CV and we are inclined to suggest that she will tick that box on Saturday.
Comtesse Dubois had the distinction of being Team Valor’s first South African 2yo winner of two seasons ago, when trained by Neil Bruss, and she should mark another overdue milestone this weekend.
A winner of 4 of her 11
starts, which includes a gallant victory in the Listed Laisserfaire Stakes over 1100m at Kenilworth a week prior to the Met, this 4yo has always promised better things to come. In the Laisserfaire she was slow off but showed great courage in getting up to beat Sweet Aria , to whom she was conceding 3kgs, by 0,30 lengths.
Comtesse Dubois only had three Champions Season outings in KZN this past season and it was her final performance on Golden Horse Casino Sprint day that gives an indication of how good she really is.
Competing in the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint she ran an eyecatching fifth, beaten three lengths by her champion Valor stablemate Ebony Flyer.
She was receiving 1,5kgs from the Flyer, but it is who ran behind her that catches the attention.
Comtesse Dubois beat another champion in Princess Victoria by 1,75 lengths at level weights. Fair enough, plenty has been written and speculated about the Kotzen filly’s run that afternoon. In fact it is enough to take some of the shine off the achievement, but the result is in the frame and there are other impressive collaterals from that race to bolster opinion about her.
Felix Coetzee rides her stablemate Ocean’s Swift, who was a facile 7,25 length winner of the East Cape Breeders’ Guineas in March. Her fitness must be of concern though as she has only had one run since. That was a fair second to Golden Dawn in the 1400m Listed Sweet Chestnut, where she was only run out of it late. She missed her prep run in the aborted Kenilworth meeting of 21 July, skipped last weekend’s abandoned meet and thus comes in here off an 120 day ‘enforced’ rest.
The second highest rated runner in the race is Vaughan Marshall’s Captain’s Emblem, who has won 5 of her 17 starts and shown flashes of solid ability on her day. She was punished by the handicapper after a fluent win in December last year over the course and distance, and has not earned a brass farthing since.
She appears to have problems and with only three ordi
nary runs to her credit this year, she does not inspire any confidence.
Gauteng conditioner Louis Goosen makes a rare but welcome and rather brave entrance into the winter lion’s den with his well-performed mare Jolly Poppins, who is another to have missed what would have been a beneficial prep run in the abandoned 21 July meeting and last week’s meeting.
Like Comtesse Dubois her last outing was on the Golden Horse Casino Sprint raceday. Jolly Poppins ran eleventh there, 3,65 lengths behind the Team Valor filly. She was giving her 1,5kgs but never showed and besides the Strydom factor, we cannot see her getting on top of the Snaith’s runner on her home turf.
Strydom is worth a good few lengths though and he would not be making the trip down to a miserable grey wintry Cape Town to earn the riding fee. Fourie will have to be on his toes.
Yogas Govender’s Kwitizina is a 6yo daughter of Captain Al(one of three progeny in the race) and is a mare who just never knows how to run a bad race.
She is probably being kept in training as she is sound and
to have a last dip at earning some black type. Kwitizina ran unplaced in this race last year but ran a cracker of a second in the Listed Olympic Duel Stakes behind Reflective Image, three runs back. She jumps from that infamous 1 draw and if the weather and the going play ball, she may have the heart and the speed to upset the more fancied runners.
It is difficult making a case for the balance on the weight-for-age terms of this race.
The Fred Crabbia-owned Daintree Dancer has battled when thrown in the deep end of feature racing, as witnessed by her Gr2 Fillies Championship and Listed Olympic Duel Stakes below-par efforts. She should struggle.
Karl Neisius rides Captain’s Emblem on Satu
rday and gets off the Mike Bass-trained Northern Heritage. The latter, a diminutive daughter of Western Winter who appears to prefer sprinting and her last two runs around the turn may thus best be ignored.
She won her last outing over this course and distance in June in an MR 92 Fillies And Mares Handicap. But she was carrying nothing courtesy of her apprentice allowance and hardly disposed of a world-beater in the Brett Crawford-trained Super Model.
The second of the Bass runners is the Lundy’s Liability 4yo Splendid Sun, who ran a fair third 2,35 lengths behind Pelican Point at her last outing. That was in lesser company and while she has fitness on her side, she has no serious realistic chance of upsetting the higher rated fillies.
The Surging River mare Money Surger may prefer the going on top and appears to have lost her form this winter.
Joey Ramsden’s five-time winning Western Winter filly Maxixe has not won for ten months and appears to be battling to assert herself, finishing just on the fringes re
cently. She was bumped last time when looming up and looking dangerous before tiring to 3,50 lengths off Pelican Point. Her two runs in June, when right on the heels of the vastly improved recent Gr3 Final Fling winner Cash Register, do show that she is not incapable of running a place in this field, if things go her way with a bit of luck in running.
The Mike Stewart-trained Jean’s Pride is a powerful front-runner who can gallop when on song. She has won her three races impressively, but is a touch inconsistent. She was withdrawn coughing from her last scheduled engagement on 18 July and has thus not run for four months.
Carl Burger sends out the very game and pacy Chrisaldon who is a three-time winner over the course and distance. She won her penultimate start with a clever front-running rail-run but this is a different league and she should not pose a threat on these weight terms.
t class versus a few average local hard-knockers. Throw in the unknown factor of the Goosen visitor and we have a great contest in the offing.
If Comtesse Dubois is 75% ready, she should be good enough to beat this lot. Her biggest threat could be her own stablemate Ocean’s Swift, while Jolly Poppins may enjoy the local conditions. If the budget permits, make allowance in that quartet for the likes of Kwitizina and Maxixe.
Should the weather come up with a seasonal curved ball, we could well be in for a mudlark’s caper and a result to match. If not, then Comtesse Dubois will win it.
Include the game Kwitizina as an exotic kicker, but the luxury combinations are probably more needed in the bumper other legs, where field sizes make selections a veritable lucky dip.