The R165 000 Gr3 Yellowwood Handicap will be run over 1800m under the lights at Turffontein on Tuesday evening.This race produced the 2010 Gr1 Sansui Summer Cup winner when Flirtation won it for Mike De Kock. Is there a possibility of history repeating itself?
Anything is possible when Mike De Kock goes racing.
The master trainer saddles a blue-blooded coupling of Berry Blaze and the rested 6yo Singspiel mare Atlantic Oak, who take on fourteen opponents in this capacity field. And we saw last Tuesday evening how De Kock gets them to win, with Welwitschia and Silver Flyer achieving smooth victories – even after being rested.
Punters will be hoping that we see this meeting to its conclusion after losing the ninth and tenth races last Tuesday evening when the weather turned nasty.
Powered by Eliezer, this is a race known for being competitive and of some substantial quality.
Admittedly neither Berry Blaze nor Atlantic Oak look like Summer Cup winners at this stage of the game, but the dynamics and unpredictability of the sport we love have taught us not to take anything for granted.
Stable jockey Anthony Delpech, refreshed after his recent annual holiday break, has opted to ride the beautifully–bred Berry Blaze, who disappointed last time when a one-paced 5,50 length fifth behind stablemate Festival Of Fire in the Joburg Spring F&M Challenge.
Berry Blaze went off a 22-10 favourite in that feature event, but after being slow away, was never in it despite the urgings of jockey Anton Marcus. She eventually finished 3 lengths behind Without Malice, whom she meets a half kilo better off here. That may not be enough to make the required difference, but she will enjoy the extra ground.
This will only be Berry Blaze’s fifth start of 2012, and on the evidence of her best performances, she is capable of a Gr 3 win.
Atlantic Oak is another beautifully bred import who was rested after an indifferent fifth in the Off To Stud Handicap towards the end of July at Scottsville. Her form prior to that included a luke-warm effort in the Queen Palm a month earlier. But she won 4 of her 6 previous starts and could be a factor despite her race-readiness doubts.
Piere Strydom has the benefit of a 1 draw on the Tamburlaine filly Katy’s Lane, who is yet to recapture her 3yo form.
She ran a poor race when 15 lengths behind Silver Flyer last Tuesday evening in a Pinnacle Plate, but will be a lot more comfortable against her own sex here.
She is also 1,5kgs better off with Berry Blaze after she finished a whisker behind the De Kock horse in the Joburg Spring Challenge. Katy’s Lane is bound to also enjoy this trip and the opportunity of being settled by Striker Strydom, and allowed to run on off what is bound to be a healthy pace.
Himalayan Hill hails from in-form yard of Alec Laird and won a good race when clinching the Off To Stud Handicap at Scottsville at her penultimate outing. She disappointed though at her next start over the Vaal straight mile when fading badly late in the race to finish 13 lengths off Alessandria.
The Laird charge is 6,5kgs better off with Alessandria on Tuesday’s weight difference, and will prefer the extra 200m of this race
Mike Azzie sends out the Fort Wood galloper Magic Smoke, a winner of 3 of her 8 career starts. Magic Smoke started her career with plenty of promise and is held in high regard by her shrewd trainer.
Azzie won the Yellowwood last year with Queen’s Bay, who also won the race in 2009.
Magic Smoke has shown good ability in the peaks of a rather inconsistent formline, and does not jump from the best of draws here.
Nuresh Juglall rides her for the first time and she is a long-striding filly who could relish being allowed to use her stride. That said, she will have to up her game a good few notches to stand a chance of upsetting the better girls.
Barend Botes saddles the Count Dubois filly Up Front who botched her Emerald Fillies Sprint effort with a no-show 24 lengths behind Formation. She had won 3 of her 4 previous starts though, and gets the services of Felix Coetzee from a nice draw.
The Ormonde Ferraris coupling of Hawker Hunter and Markofdistinction warrant inclusion in the exotics and both are capable sorts.
Hawker Hunter won the Gerald Rosenberg in dazzling style on Champions Day and returned to action in the Joburg Spring Challenge two weeks back. She will prefer the extra ground here and her two fair efforts in the Acacia and Jacaranda Handicaps definitely bring her into the picture. The second run-after-a-rest syndrome may concern her supporters.
Oaks Trial winner Markofdistinction comes in on a handy galloping weight of 52kgs and could prove the value package in the race, if not needing the run after her 89 day rest.
There are three Jet Masters and three Fort Woods in the race, and Geoff Woodruff’s Alessandria is one of the latter. A lovely strong long-striding 4yo, she finished with a burst under her apprentice rider to win her last start in good style.
Alessandria will be ridden for the first time by Raymond Danielson and could surprise if things go her way.
In The Zone
Errico Verdonese’ Flight Zone is an intriguing runner with excellent recent form,
The daughter of Jet Master won four on the trot including her maiden, and was then caught a trifle flat-footed by the hard-running Formation at her last outing when going down 3,25 lengths. She was giving St John Gray’s flyer 5kgs in an MR 88 Handicap over 1800m.
Flight Zone looks well weighted on the 52kgs mark and must be considered a step or two ahead of the handicapper still. She is after all a 5yo and has only had eight career outings.
Two classy sorts that have lost the plot recently, may warrant inclusion for the bigger perms.
The first of these is Go Indigo, who will be piloted by regular rider Sherman Brown. The Three Troikas- Fillies Guineas double winner disappointed in her last two starts after scoring in her first race of the new season when finishing strongly to get up and win an MR 94 Fillies Handicap over the Vaal 1400m straight.
Go Indigo was not herself in the Joburg Spring F&M Challenge last time, where she finished a tame seventh. She could bounce back here.
The seven-time winning Without Malice is a strong front-runner, who finished a fair fourth behind Festival Of Fire in the Joburg Spring F&M Challenge. George Scott’s daughter of Jet Master has the gate speed to overcome her 16 draw, but will need luck in running after that exertion. Jockey Fanie Chambers knows her well and this course and distance winner warrants respect.
The balance of the field look very hard- pressed and unlikely to make an impact on current form.
They include Varlet, who faded badly last time and will need more than just luck from a poor draw. Then Final Score is a one-time winner who ran a fair running on fourth to Tajmeel in the KZN Oaks. Enchanted Kingdom has lost her form after looking promising early on. She has been rested for close on two months. Cyclone Michelle ran on strongly at long odds at her last outing, but this is much stronger.
The selection of a likely winner is compounded and complicated by the draw and fitness factor.
But we are siding with Mike De Kock’s Berry Blaze who is expected to enjoy the trip and her improved fitness levels. She could hold the consistent and exciting Flight Zone, with any of Atlantic Oak,Katy’s Lane and Go Indigo to scrap for the minor cheques.
And Uncle George Scott’s Without Malice is the dangerous front-runner, who could have us in a cold sweat inside the final 300m.
Not a straightforward affair by any stretch of the imagination!