The weekend spotlight falls on the Eastern Cape on Friday, where the non black-type R90 000 Founders Trophy will be run over a mile at Arlington. While he is on the wrong side of the average age of the thirteen-strong field, the 7yo Modus Vivendi gelding Makzoos gets a great opportunity to add to his impressive career tally.
While there are probably no Dubai or even Met prospects amongst this lot, they do collectively project a wonderful advert for racing in the Eastern Cape. Very competitive, with a touch of class here and there, we have watched them so many times before we could probably recognise their faces without the aid of their silks. But that is why we enjoy our regular Friday racing slot and the clouded predictability does not detract from a tough contest where the average age is 6, and where the contestants have won a remarkable 89 races between them.
Trained these days by Gavin Smith, Makzoos relocated from Gavin Van Zyl’s Summerveld yard in December 2010 and arrived here a three-time winner. He has been a loyal servant and paid his way, notching up a further six wins, including a most gutsy effort at his last outing three weeks ago over the Fairview 1800m. He beat the very capable Cape raider Fabiani by 0,75 lengths at level weights and had the likes of Surfin’USA, All Ablaze and Ecole Militaire well beaten.
A course and distance winner, it is of some concern that Makzoos jumps from the worst draw. But he is a gelding who can be settled and produces a nice turn of foot. Jockey Aldo Domeyer knows him fairly well, having ridden him on four previous occasions. While there is little to choose at the weights and he is no good thing, Makzoos must go very close here. Smith’s other two runners look slightly less threatening.
Day Of The Piper is a 9yo who made his return to racing last week after a three month break. He was, not unexpectedly, never in the hunt in that 1200m race and was always last finishing 17,10 lengths off Russian Mig. It should be noted that he has run off a career high rating of 106 and will be more at home over this trip, but may obviously need a few more runs to attain his peak fitness.
The 5yo Mogok gelding Catview does not have the worst form in the race.
He was hanging when unplaced 8,70 lengths off Roaring Wind in lesser company at his last outing. He did run on from midfield when fourth 2,80 lengths behind Russian Mig at his penultimate outing over the Fairview 1400m. He has a galloping weight of 52,5kgs and has the likes of King Of Flags well held. He could run into the place money.
Yvette Bremner trained last year’s Founders Trophy winner Youth Club and she sends out the class horse this year in the very same silks.
A twelve-time winner, Celtic Fire, has earned over R700 000 and has been a star for his connections, who outlayed just R50 000 to purchase him. The son of Bezrin ran unplaced in this race in 2010 when it was run at Fairview, but is always a factor. He was considered good enough to take his chances in the 2011 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and the J&B Met, and is probably ideally at his best over the mile.
His recent form is not inspiring though and his return run from a two month break was a rare poor effort. The MR 104 Handicap was over a distance short of his best, but after pulling hard he faded badly and ran 13,85 lengths off Russian Mig. He will no doubt be fitter going into this and only has to produce his better efforts, to be considered a big runner.
Blaze Of Fire ran in the same sprint as stablemate Celtic Fire last week, and finished seven lengths ahead of him after being slow away. That was not a bad effort after his return from an arduous double SA and East Cape Derby assault in April and May. If the Derby efforts have not taken the edge off him, he could continue to show improvement and it may be worth noting that he is a Listed winner over the Arlington 1400m as a 3yo.
The Sham-Steenkamp training partnership have made a terrific start to the new season and their 5yo Lecture gelding Bob ‘N Weave is proving a versatile sort after commencing his career as a lightning fast sprinter. As he has matured he has progressively been pushed further and ran a cracker in the Flamingo Mile when staying on remarkably well for third 1,50 lengths off Caryl’s Law at the beginning of August.
He then stepped down 200m to run a superb 0,50 length second to the very promising Russian Mig, when conceding 8kgs three weeks ago at Fairview on slightly soft ground. Adding value to this effort is the fact that Russian Mig won his next start last Friday, beating some good sorts, including the likes of the well-performed Bois De Var and Take Over Target.
Bob ‘N Weave is an Emerald Cup entrant and is obviously highly regarded by his connections. This looks an unlikely preparatory race and he goes out a serious runner, despite his 11 draw
Alan Greeff has two runners with Lord Badger seemingly leading the challenge. That opinion is expressed with some caution, as Felix Coetzee, who won on him last time, rides All Ablaze on Friday and steps aside for MJ Byleveld.
Lord Badger was an impressively easy winner of his last start over the Arlington 1800m in yielding going when beating Zezinho Campeao by 3,75 lengths. Makzoos was 5,10 lengths behind there at level weights and Lord Badger carries an extra half kilo here.That should give him the edge over Makzoos again, and he must be considered a major contender for top honours on that score, and more so that one considers him as a still improving younger horse.
All Ablaze is no slouch either, and as mentioned, gets the services of Felix Coetzee from a good draw.
The seven-time winner appears to have a slight preference for the going on top, and has run two poor races in soft underfoot conditions, after winning an MR 100 Handicap over the Arlington 1800m in June. He beat Makzoos by two lengths that day, and meets the Smith runner on the same weight differential here. It should be a close call if he shrugs off his last two below-par efforts and gets some decent ground to gallop on.
Mitch Wiese sends out an interesting runner in the Classic Flag colt, King Of Flags.
This bold front-running sort is an ideal partner for the powerful and aggressive style of jockey Wayne Agrella, who has been in the saddle for three of his four career victories. Counting against King Of Flags is the fact that he is yet to win beyond 1400m and this won’t be an easy run affair with some decent front-runners in attendance. He is in fine form at the moment though and is a very fit horse. He could make his presence felt.
The Tara Laing stable has been producing the winners with impressive regularity in her first season as a licenced trainer, and Justin Snaith’s very able former Assistant sends out the 4yo Silvano gelding Parceval, who is a relatively lightly raced contestant.
A winner of three races, he won over the course and distance on debut at 16-1 and just failed to collar Roaring Wind when giving him 2kgs last time out. He finished a half length in front of Makzoos when receiving 6kgs at his penultimate start and now gets an extra half-kilo which leaves nothing to the imagination! The 200m less of this race could swing the scales to a degree in Parceval’s favour.
Surfin’ USA ran second to Youth Club in this race last year and even as a 9yo has lost none of his zest for racing. A multiple Group winner in his younger days, he was quietly fancied at his last start when a bit one-paced when plodding into fourth and five lengths off Makzoos, when receiving a half kilo. Apprentice Andrews again claims his 2,5kgs here, which means technically that Makzoos should beat him again.
Des McLachlan sends a long-priced coupling to post and the 4yo Toreador gelding Poulnabrone is probably the more likelier earner of the two. A three time winner from his 20 starts, he has not won since February 2012, when getting the better of Sydney’s Gift in an MR71 Handicap over the Arlington 1800m. He runs the odd forward race, but is probably outclassed and overshadowed by the better horses higher up the handicap.
The 8yo Ecole Militaire has drawn well at 2 and gets the services of Chris Taylor. Despite him being a ten-time winner and at one stage of his career running off a 106, it is difficult making a case for him on his present form picture.
The predictability we harped on about earlier is really only about some of the participants. Finding the likely winner is a little bit more complex.
The younger generation of the ilk of Lord Badger. King Of Flags and Parceval are improving and capable. That said, we have the hard-knocking proven warriors like Makzoos and Celtic Fire, who are both never-say-die sorts. Then we need to include the Emerald Cup candidate Bon ‘N Weave who is always thereabouts and Greeff’s ‘second-stringer’ All Ablaze, who could prove some value at long odds.
All told, Makzoos may be the right one and he is selected to beat Parceval and Lord Badger. But go wide and include whatever the budget permits. Here’s to a good Friday.