SA Horse Of The Year Variety Club steps out in Saturday’s R 750 000 Gr1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge at Clairwood. Running over what is probably our fairest mile, and having shown his wellbeing and fitness recently, the star son of Var will be a major attraction and looks ready to add to his impressive career tally.
Variety Club’s trainer Joey Ramsden, speaking after his champion’s recent return to race action said that the connections were tired of hanging around waiting for resolution with exports protocols and the like. Ramsden was of course referring to the red tape related to the on and off export to the USA of the four year old.
The international racing stage’s loss is South Africa’s gain though and we will not be alone in welcoming him back to Gr1 action on Saturday. Variety Club goes for an impressive eighth win on the trot, and will be eager to add to his haul of 13 wins from 18 starts. It looks impossible to oppose him, although we are mindful of Anton Marcus’ marginal hesitancy when referring to this event after his comeback won at Greyville on 22 May.
We are rejecting that as typical professional courtesy by the champion jockey to the prestigious Gr1 quality of this event. Interestingly, he has not been beaten in his four outings since winning this race last year. That streak also just happened to include South Africa’s premier WFA mile, the Gr1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.
So rather than harping on about a horse that has proven his credentials over and over again, it may prove more beneficial to search for anything likely of getting within a length of him.
Sean Tarry’s 2012 Vodacom Durban July victor Pomodoro obviously fits that glove. The son of Jet Master was well beaten into second by Variety Club when they clashed in that Greyville prep run last time, but we know well that Pomodoro becomes a more serious racehorse the further they go.
He was well beaten into third by Variety Club in the L‘Ormarins Queen’s Plate and appears held again. One would imagine that the July (where he stands proudly at the top of the log) is his major target at this point in time, and he may be a few weeks away from peaking. His stablemate, Hawaii Stakes winner Whiteline Fever will be ridden by Bernard Fayd’herbe and jumps from a nice draw at 3.
His life has followed a very different path to Variety Club, but it is fair to assume that he cannot beat Ramsden’s runner on the handicap and should be running on strongly with the July in sight.
The two ladies at the bottom of the weights warrant serious consideration, and it would be silly to ignore their claims.Dennis Drier’s brilliant Dynasty mare Beach Beauty has won 11 of her 21 starts. This pocket rocket won the Drill hall Stakes at her most recent outing in terrific style after running a gallant third behind Martial Eagle in the J&B Met.
Her formline shows that she has never fallen prey to the second run after a rest syndrome and she should strip even fitter here. Mike De Kock’s very smart 3yo Festival Of Fire is one of the most versatile performers around.
The daughter of Kahal, who won the KRA Fillies Guineas on the opening day of the 2013 Champions Season, obviously has a tough task at this stage of her life, but showed her wellbeing with a storming late second placed run in the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint to the brilliant Via Africa.
Festival Of Fire appears to be far better suited to this extra ground and as a winner of over half of her career outings, she is very talented and has been brought along under the radar most of her racing life.
MJ Byleveld returns from an injury enforced rest to ride Hill Fifty Four for Vaughan Marshall. He carries the same silks as Variety Club, and the public startedtaking him a little more seriously after an excellent second behind Martial Eagle in the 2013 J&B Met.
Hill Fifty Four caught the eye on his return to action when a running on third to Beach Beauty in the Drill Hall Stakes. He could finish in the places at best. Garth Puller’s unsound warrior Ice Machine finished just ahead of Hill Fifty Four in the Drill Hall Stakes,and now needs to show that he can hold that level of form. He is not well drawn, but has a good finishing burst and could be the ideal quartet kicker for the more optimistic type players.
Formerly with Greg Ennion, the Jet Master gelding Master Plan has his second run for Alec Laird. He destroyed his Met prospects by casting a shoe in running, and ran handily in the President’s Champions Challenge before fading out. He is a horse that has promised plenty, but has delivered little in recent times and is now under pressure to show more.
He could prefer another 400m to show his real ability. Gary Alexander has remained loyal to Pierre Jourdan, but the six year old son of Parade Leader has battled to find the spark of old that made him such a popular equine figure. He would be a shock winner!
The purists love these weight for age races, as they give the best horse the optimum opportunity to win. Variety Club is an automatic first choice to win this , and it is difficult to see anything lowering his colours.
For that to happen, the star would have to have an off day. And a glance at his record shows he brings his A game to racing every time. Enjoy the show. It should be another thrilling spectacle!