There is so much more than money and black type at stake in the R200 000 Gr3 HSH Princess Charlene Of Monaco Starling Stakes to be run over 1400m at Turffontein on Charity Mile day. The pride, honour and thrill of receiving the winner’s trophy from royalty may even have a giant of the turf wearing his Sunday best.
It just happens to help knowing that based on historical performance and statistics, Mike De Kock is likely to win at least two features on Charity Mile day. And while he has hobnobbed with the elite and performed on the greatest horseracing stages on earth, there can be no denying that the grandmaster would enjoy the pleasure of winning this race for his loyal patrons.
He certainly holds the key to the castle and a strong hand with four powerful contenders.
Topping the weights and the De Kock challenge is the Joburg Spring F&M Challenge winner Festival Of Fire, who has won 3 of her 4 outings.
The daughter of Kahal was well weighted to win the Spring Challenge, but steps down to her own age group here.
She also had the older Without Malice 2,50 lengths behind her in the Spring Challenge, and we saw that one run a cracker in the Yellowwood Handicap under lights at Turffontein last Tuesday evening.
Festival Of Fire is our first choice and looks a scopy and fast improving sort. Rider Derreck David knows her well enough by now after being aboard at her good last win.
Stable jockey Anthony Delpech sides with Honorine, who has the distinction of being Gr1 placed against the boys. That was her heroic third in the Golden Horseshoe behind War Horse on July day – a run made all the more meritorious as she made the pace from an 11 draw.
Honorine had a freshener two weeks back when running a fair third to Tinchy Stryder under the lights. She should strip fresh and ready on Saturday.
Raymond Danielson rides the two-time winning Fort Wood filly Al Kindi, who really came into her own when winning a novice plate over the Turffontein mile going away at her last start. She looks to have Fire Wheel held on that run.
The Western Winter filly Tayba ran a modest fourth to Malaga-Belle last time when a change of tactics failed rather dismally. Her rider won’t have too many choices here from a 15 draw, and she may be better if bounced and allowed to run hard early.
Piere Strydom rides Gary Alexander’s Blueridge Mountain,and declares a half kilo overweight. Strydom is worth 5 kgs in a scrap on a bad day and he will give this smashing filly every chance from a 9 draw.
The daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar won on debut at Clairwood running on late over 1200m, and then went down narrowly to the smart Tinchy Stryder after showing pace over the Turffontein 1160m.
Blueridge Mountain was conceding 2,5kgs to the Tarry horse there, and will no doubt be ridden with more restraint over a trip she should relish.
Ormonde Ferraris’ Cherry On The Top would have been close to an automatic first choice but for her awful 17 draw.
The winner of 3 of her first 4 outings has shown outstanding ability and is one of the few females in recent times to get close to St John Gray’s power galloper Formation. The latter, a winner of 7 races including the Listed Emerald Fillies Handicap, is in the form of her life. She almost got rolled though at her at her last start, where Cherry On The Top ran on strongly when receiving 1,5kgs.
Jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe will probably drop Cherry On The Top in from that draw, and she has shown the maturity and ability to produce a turn of foot late.
Sean Tarry sends out two runners. His beautifully bred Amber Orchid has won 2 of 4 starts and but for a 13 draw, would have been a likely first choice. She cruised in at her last start over the Clairwood 1450m at Clairwood in early September and had earlier run a creditable second in mixed company to her stablemate Mozart’s Giovanni. Admittedly she getting 10kgs from the winner, but she stayed on smartly.
Tarry’s other filly is a daughter of Black Minnaloushe.
Fire Wheel has won once from 5 starts but has campaigned often in feature company and never been far off.She ran a cracker in the Thekwini Stakes on Super Saturday when fifth and 4,05 lengths off the top-class All Is Secret. She runs from a 14 draw and could run close with a bit of luck.
Kumaran Naidoo’s King’s Temptress returns to the scene of her greatest triumph six months ago. Few have gotten over her shock debut win in the SA Fillies Nursery and sadly the daughter of King Of Kings has yet to live up to that exalted benchmark in her four subsequent starts. She did run on well at her last start at Scottsville, but lost her race in the preliminaries with a silly energy-sapping performance.
Errico Verdonese’ The Intervention has drawn against the paint and the daughter of Toreador caught the eye when winning her maiden by 8,50 lengths at the Vaal at the end of September. She should enjoy the extra here.
The Captain Al filly Leeward represents the Woodruff team and has workmanlike form with a win and two places at her three starts. She is well drawn at 3 and carries 53kgs.
The De Kock four-way coupling is powerful one and Festival Of Fire and Honorine look set to do battle in front of royalty. Blueridge Mountain has yet to produce her best and she will relish the trip.
There are others with chances.