With recent form not high on the agenda amongst the established brigade, Friday’s Arlington 1800 could develop into a shootout between two promising 4yo’s. The Snaith-trained Indian Hawk has often promised better things to come, while Tara Laing’s Parceval comes in fighting fit and seemingly overdue for his next win.
The sixteen horse field for this non black-type feature has all the hallmarks of a minor nightmare for punters, with the more experienced campaigners lacking spark recently, but capable of bouncing back to their best without prior warning at any time.
We are taking the conservative route of leaning towards the quartet of younger horses, two of whom have recent form and fitness on their side.
Bird Of Prey
The first of these is Indian Hawk, a rather excitingly talented 4yo who commenced his career in Port Elizabeth in the care of Gavin Smith, before relocating to KZN under the guidance of that astute horseman, Ivan Moore. A winner of three of his seventeen starts, he is a gelding who realistically could probably hold his own in the stronger racing centres and now races out of the powerful Snaith satellite yard in the care of Juan Nel.
Indian Hawk constantly bumped the extreme talent of the Eastern Cape Champion Juvenile In A Rush in his juvenile year, and seldom finished more than a few lengths adrift. A winner from 1200m to 1600m, he ran a cracker when dashing through for second in the East Cape Derby, 2,75 lengths behind runaway visiting winner
Indian Hawk won his penultimate start over the Fairview 1400m when cruising in to beat the very capable local, Russian Mig. The latter has won twice subsequently, beating the likes of Icemberg and the Sham-Steenkamp soldier, Bob ‘N Weave.
His main rival could be the Silvano gelding Parceval, who has won 3 of his 11 starts. The Oldlands Stud-bred ran a cracker under an admittedly favourable 52kgs in the Founders Trophy when running on well for third and a length off Blaze Of Fire in the Founders Trophy. Nuresh Juglall rides Parceval for the first time and it lingers in the back of the mind that an experienced jockey once privately expressed the opinion that he was ‘the best horse I’ve ridden in PE.’ And he has ridden a few fair ones!
The Wiese challenge is headed by the promising 4yo Forest Digger, to be ridden by Wayne Agrella, who has won on him, from a good draw.
Forest Digger has won from 1400m to 2000m and was one of the better 3yo’s last season. The major concern is that he has not run for four months and may be in need of a run or two. On the flipside, it may be worth noting that he won after a two month break in February, over 1400m. He appears over his bad tendency to lose ground at the start and the betting is probably the best guide to stable confidence at this point.
Mitch Wiese’s other two are considerably weaker than Forest Digger. Now a 7yo, Superfederation has won his six races and clocked up a host of fair placed efforts until going off the boil at the end of last season. The 6yo Roused has drawn poorly and is the sort that has shown a preference for more ground. They both look unlikely.
Gavin Smith sends out his usually powerful coupling and the must- include combination for Pick 6 players includes all of Makzoos, White House, Zezinho Campeao and Spellcaster.
Makzoos carries joint topweight of 61kgs and ran an uncharacteristically poor race in the Founders Trophy, when always battling towards the rear. He surprisingly only finished 5,90 lengths off Blaze Of Fire in the end, but his earlier form was always consistent. He was also drawn at 13 from 13 in that last bad effort, and has shown that he is capable of carrying the big weights.
He accounted for the very capable Cape visitor Fabiani at his previous Fairview 1800m start at level weights, and only needs to put his mind to it to have a say here. Francois Herholdt, who won his penultimate start on him, jumps aboard again.
Zezinho Campeao is a lightly weighted sort that catches the eye as a likely quartet kicker at best. The
Brazillian-bred son of Hard Buck has only managed 2 wins from 26 starts, which on the face of it is hardly impressive. He is unsound, but may run above himself if coming out feeling good. In that case he jumps from a 7 draw and only lumps 52,5kgs. He could run into the money.
The 7yo Windrush gelding White House has drawn awfully at 16, which will not count in his favour.
He did show his wellbeing though with a 4,60 length fourth to the upwardly mobile Cape-based Roaring Wind in an MR90 Handicap over 1600m at his last start. That continued a trend of on-the-fringe efforts recently, and there should not be too much in it against the likes of Makzoos and All Ablaze- whom he beat on yielding going in mid-May.
Smith’s fourth runner is the Jet Master gelding Spellcaster, who has drawn against the paint with the confident Aldo Domeyer in the saddle. He looks a touch outclassed here and one has to go back six months for Spellcaster’s last win in an MR 90 Handicap. Domeyer was aboard that day, and Spellcaster should battle to beat the likes of All Ablaze and Superfederation again.
Alan Greef’s All Ablaze is a multiple good course and distance winner, but has lost the plot at his last three starts. He plodded late last time out in the Founders Trophy to finish three lengths behind Blaze Of Fire, and prior to that ran a dismal 13,70 lengths off Makzoos. He has drawn 12 and would need to get back to his best form, to challenge the top contenders.
The Steenkamp-Sham combination have fought their way into the forefront of credibility in the local training ranks in the past twelve months and always warrant consideration. They send out Audit Report and Alif, and the former is preferred despite his 15 draw.
Audit Report is a hard-knocking handicapper who invariably gives of his best with a late sustained flourish in his races. He does lose ground at the start every now and again too. He ran a game third at his last outing when 4,25 lengths behind Makzoos in an 1800m Pinnacle Plate at Fairview. He received 5,5kgs there and now meets the Smith horse on a 6kg weight differential – which is not enough to reverse matters. But he always puts in his best effort in and could burgle a place cheque – that is if things don’t go awry from that draw.
Alif has drawn the better of the Sham coupling, but ran below best when 10,60 lengths behind Lucky Flag at his last start. That run came after a draining trip to Flamingo Park three weeks earlier and he may be feeling more enthusiastic after a short break. He still looks slightly out of his depth against this lot though.
Yvette Bremner’s Havasha is a five time winner who has a stamp of class and plenty of ability when on song. He has run off a lifetime high merit rating of 106 and competed against many good horses in a rollercoaster career.
He ran the champion Pierre Jourdan to 2,75 lengths in the Gr2 Gauteng Guineas and also ran a cracker when going down three lengths to current Gary Player stallion Noordhoek Flyer in the Gr2 KRA Guineas. Fair enough, that is modern history in a racing sense, but he ran a cracker when powering through at his penultimate start on slightly soft ground to beat Audit Report. He has that one held again.
Things went somewhat pear-shaped for Havasha last time when he was relegated to last from second after causing havoc in the finish. Karis Teetan will have to overcome the 17 draw, but he is no slouch when in the mood and will win if producing his best.
It is difficult making a case for the balance.
Jacques Strydom’s coupling of Surfin’ USA and Key Castle have won twenty races between them, but are 9yo’s who may have their best days behind them. They are both Group winners, but while Surfin’ USA is probably capable of running a place if things go his way, Key Castle may need to go another 1800m before he really gets going.
Des McLachlan saddles the remaining 4yo Poulnabrone. This fellow was campaigned against winners as a maiden, but has not followed through on that level of esteem in which he is obviously held by his connections. His last win was over this course and distance, but was against MR 71 Handicap company. This is stronger. He enjoys the 4kg claim of young apprentice Stallone Naidoo, but faded badly in the Founders Trophy and needs to show vast improvement to challenge.
We are siding with the young ones here. The 4yo’s have the enthusiasm, the scope and the ability required to win this.
Snaith’s Indian Hawk looks the right one, but Parceval only needs a confident ride and to be within striking distance in the final 300m to be a huge contender. Include Forest Digger if the betting shows any stable confidence – and then the classy but enigmatic Havasha could annihilate the whole lot if at best.