He gets the public heartbeat racing and the romantics will no doubt be extolling the virtues of the 2011 Charity Mile winner Pierre Jourdan. But a measure of common sense and a few historic vital statistics are the red flags that suggest caution for Turffontein’s Saturday drawcard.
It is all set for a mad scramble for glory and a hand on the prized R600 000 Gr2 Peermont Emperors Palace Charity Mile silverware. The fascinating dilemma of this race is that, depending on one’s loyalties and creative streak, a case can probably be made to some degree for each of the other fifteen runners.
The Charity Mile represents South African horseracing’s biggest public show for charity and each runner races on behalf of a nominated deserving cause. The horse’s finishing position determines how much of the R550 000 the charity receives, with the winner walking off with the lion’s share of R100 000. To add glitz and glamour, each runner has a corporate sponsor and is publicly represented by a celebrity.
Pierre Jourdan won it last year for the Animal Anti-Cruelty League and this year he carries the torch for San Michele. Can he become the first horse in decades to achieve the double?
Gary Alexander’s Summerhill Stud-bred Parade Leader gelding is something of a celebrity newsmaker in his own right and has been a limelight lover since taking his first step to equine stardom with a dramatic win in the R1,5 million Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup almost four years ago to the day.
Since that remarkable Saturday, PJ, as he is fondly known, has gone on to great things.
A winner of one Gr1, two Gr2’s and a Gr3, he has, at times, sent shivers down the spine, downright disappointed his loyal followers and even been the subject of a publicised partnership spat that led to him attending the second public auction of his life.
Through it all he has remained the Alexander clan’s and the Ready To Run’s favourite poster boy. And a walking talking advert for his R60 000 purchase price, having accumulated career earnings of R400 000 short of R5 million.
PJ has dropped down the handicap to a rating of 109 since running off a 116 in the Horse Chestnut seven months ago. He ran a cracker when third in the Gold Challenge behind Horse Of The Year Variety Club, but then blotted his copybook finishing unplaced in the Vodacom Durban July.
We should not overlook the fact that PJ has not enjoyed the best 12 months since his last win, which was the 2011 Charity Mile. But his run in the Joburg Spring Challenge three weeks ago showed the flicker of better things to come and the spark of a revival.
Ridden by Piere Strydom, who rides him again on Saturday, he appeared outpaced early but ran on well for a 3,25 length fourth to Link Man at level weights. That was despite being hampered at a crucial stage late in the race.
Mike De Kock sends out five runners and will be looking to improve on what is, by his standards, a rather ordinary strike rate of two wins in thirteen years in this event. De Kock won it for the first time with Smart Money(1998) and then Alderry in 2010.
The De Kock attack is headed by the enigmatic talent of the grey Toreador flyer Link Man, who carries topweight. He bounced back to something of what we know he is capable of when winning the Joburg Spring Challenge last time out going away.
It was a timeous return to form for a horse who, in our book, may not be a genuine miler at this level. But he has earned his rating and is the mount of stable rider Anthony Delpech.
De Kock’s Dingaans winner Silver Flyer comes into the reckoning after his emphatic return to form in a Pinnacle Plate last time out. Drawn badly on yielding going, Fransie Herholdt produced Silver Flyer in that 1400m event to win going away, beating the likes of Kings Entourage and Astro News, whom he meets again.
Silver Flyer may need another race or two to reach his peak and we can probably second-guess that De Kock is aiming him at the bigger fish of the Summer Cup at this stage. He races off a 106 here and, besides being guaranteed a berth already for the December showdown, does he really need a penalty going into the big one ?
Silver Flyer ran a 3,25 length second to Variety Club in the Cape Guineas, with Princess Victoria and Gimmethegreenlight eating his dust. That was straight out of his Dingaans win and things went awry thereafter. Besides a close third behind Slumdogmillionaire in the SA Classic, he ran below par in the SA Derby and Cup Trial, and the horse touted by some as the De Kock July hopeful was packed away.
He now emerges after his great prep, racing off a 106 and looks well ahead of the handicapper at this point on a line through his two highly-rated contemporaries – Variety Club and Jackson. If we consider that the latter are racing off 116 at this point and based on the ability shown by Silver Flyer’s one collateral effort in the Cape Guineas , when obviously in fair health, then he may well be better than rated.
The Emerald Cup winner Meadow Magic races in the Link Man all-blue and jumps allegiances from the sand to turf. He is yet another runner who is difficult to assess.
The lightly raced 5yo son of Mogok has won readily on the Turffontein grass previously and comes in on 54,5kgs under Randall Simons. He ran a nice fourth behind Eton Square in the Jubilee Handicap, when conceding 4kgs and being beaten 4,25 lengths.
One of four Silvano progeny in the field, Silent Partner will be ridden by last year’s winning rider, Derreck David, and has not run since a fair third beaten 1,5 lengths by Tribal Dance in the Greyville 2200 on July day. He was withdrawn from his engagement at Turffontein last Saturday, and goes in here not having seen action for almost four months.
The KZN 1600 winner’s form last season was generally indicative of a horse that was ready for the next step up and he may be a better prospect after this outing ,and assuming he is being aimed at the Summer Cup.
The unbeaten Australian-bred Nadeem colt Mujaarib is an unknown quantity and a typically shrewd De Kock potential curved ball that must be considered.
A winner of all of his three starts, he really caught the eye last time when downing the much vaunted Meissa in an MR 94 Handicap over 1800m at Turffontein. Interestingly Yer- Maan ran into third there and that one ran a fair second to easy winner Soul Master in last Tuesday evening’s Listed Java Handicap under the Turffontein lights.
The problem is that we will only know a lot more about Mujaarib after this race on Saturday, and one also needs to take sobering cognisance of his 15 draw.
Sean Tarry’s three-way coupling is headed by the fast improving Right Approach gelding Whiteline Fever, who looks to have plenty in his favour. The Daytona-bred 4yo, a winner of 4 of his 14 starts, has ticks in all of the necessary boxes.
Firstly he is well drawn and secondly has the services of superjock Anton Marcus. Then he has had a perfect preparation, with a smooth win over the very talented Ice Machine in a Pinnacle Stakes run over 1450m at Clairwood three weeks back.
Whiteline Fever’s previous forays into the big time have yet to deliver a trophy, but he has run eyecatching places. These includes two solid seconds in the Dingaans and the Graham Beck Stakes, as well as a more recent fourth place finish 4,50 lengths behind Jackson in the Gr1 Daily News.
His stablemate and the Bookies best mate Roman Wall has pulled a poor draw at 17 and despite a fair second to Pessoa in the Listed Michaelmas Handicap at Clairwood at his last start, will have to up his game a good few notches to have any chance here.
Sean Tarry’s third string is The Mouseketeer, who gets a run as the first emergency acceptor following the withdrawal of Northern Emperor.
The Mouseketeer has not won in over a year and ran a shocker 26 lengths behind Silver Flyer last time out in a Pinnacle Stakes over the Turffontein 1400m. He has no chance on his current form.
Ormonde Ferraris’ very consistent Snowdon is an interesting runner who takes a rare step up to a mile again.
A course and distance winner, the son of Western Winter jumps from a 2 draw and has the services of top Cape heavyweight jockey, Bernard Fayd’Herbe.
He meets Link Man on 1,5kgs better terms than their level weights clash in the Joburg Spring Challenge where Snowdon was outpaced late and just 1,75 lengths behind.
Snowdon ran crackers in the Hawaii Stakes, the Golden Horse Casino Sprint and the Mercury Sprint, earning in all three and looks set for a big effort here.
The Meakers’ well-performed Silvano gelding Golden Crest represents the man with the best recent record of training winners in this event. Geoff Woodruff has trained four of the past nine winners and is a conditioner who will know exactly what it takes to win the race.
Golden Crest is partnered by capable lightweight rider Marco Van Rensburg, who has won on him. He rode him in his recent comeback run in the Joburg Spring Challenge. Golden Crest needed that run after a four month layoff and never threatened while staying on fairly nicely to finish 4,75 lengths behind Link Man, from who he received a kilo.
Woodruff’s runner will prefer the mile to that 1450m test, and gets 3kgs here from Link Man. A winner of 4 of his 9 starts, Golden Crest acquitted himself well in his only previous genuine test when running a smart 0,25 length second to the promising Eton Square in the Listed Jubilee Handicap. He is our dark horse and at around 16-1 represents some interesting value.
In The News
The shock Graham Beck Stakes winner Astro News will be ridden by Muzi Yeni and jumps from a 12 draw. Is he good enough to win a race of this nature?
From what we have seen of him so far, he appears to be two or three lengths short on this test, although does meet Silver Flyer on 2kgs better terms for a two length beating in their last meeting.
Astro News ran fair fringe races in the Peninsula Handicap, the J&B Met (only 1,95 length sixth to Igugu) and the Winter Guineas, to show that he could shock if getting lucky.
Tyrone Zackey’s 6yo Kahal gelding Smanjemanje, is the only other Summerhill Stud representative next to Pierre Jourdan. Smanjemanje made no show in his comeback run after coming within a whisker of upsetting the applecart int the Vodacom Durban July. But he is well drawn and will be ridden by Grant Van Niekerk, who has built up something of an affinity with him. His main mission must be the Summer Cup at this stage.
The consistent Glorious Jet has pulled a less than choice 14 draw and the St John Gray-trained son of Jet Master will have to be at his best to feature here. He has been a model of consistency though while being kept out of the limelight by his astute conditioner, who sends him out for his first serious career test.
Alec Laird’s SA Derby winner Royal Bencher has not been out since finishing seventh in the 2012 Vodacom Durban July. The stable cannot be ignored as they are firing on all cylinders, although the Greys Inn gelding will likely need the run as he is prepared for his other goals.
Mike Azzie’s Potala Palace has not run for seven months when finishing a one-paced sixth to Slumdogmillionaire in the SA Classic.
Besides a shocking draw, he does not look to have had anything like the preparation required to win a race of this nature and the son of Singspiel has been utterly disappointing, despite his record of 3 wins from 9 starts.
He has worn his R3,6 million price tag like a noose around his lovely neck, and may need to come back and try another day.
While charity will be the big winner on the day, how do we also get to stand in the winning queue?
It is fair to assume that the pace will be on, with the likes of Royal Bencher, Potala Palace and Mujaarib likely leaders. Turffontein is a fair track, so while a bad draw is never an advantage, we have the riders of the ilk of Kevin Shea, Gavin Lerena and Glen Hatt that are capable of overcoming the drawback
The Summer Cup on 1 December may hold the key. And we can come to all kinds of creative conclusions and deductions.
Like the observation that there are those that are not looking for an uneccessary penalty and then the few that will need to still raise their chances of qualifying with a forward showing here.
In the middle of this spectrum lie two horses that are unlikely to line up in the Summer Cup.
They are Link Man and Snowdon. The one consistent,the other less so. But both top-class and capable.
Then Pierre Jourdan has all the ability and ran a fair comeback three weeks ago. But his seasonal form prior to that was not inspiring.
We have not seen the best of Silver Flyer, but the Summer Cup is surely his main mission and he is poorly drawn.
Whiteline Fever popped up unexpectedly last time to show his well-being and gets the services of Marcus from the good barrier position.
Then we have the largely untried sorts of the likes of the experienced gradual climber Golden Crest and De Kock’s unbeaten Mujaarib.
We would suggest Snowdon as a narrow first choice with the likes of Silver Flyer, Link Man and Golden Crest right on his heels. But there are plenty of others that could be involved.
They say that charity begins at home. Just don’t expect any handouts here!
RUNNERS, CHARITIES, CELEBRITIES & SPONSORS
Reserve Runners – WITTENBERG; KINGS ENTOURAGE