The high quality Champions Season racing action takes a breather this weekend before the Super Saturday climax that follows next week. The appropriately named R150 000 Listed Off To Stud Handicap nevertheless provides great entertainment at Scottsville on Sunday, where eleven runners go to post in a very open race.
The quest for value boosting black type through stakes race performance is the goal of any owner and prospective breeder of racehorses. Besides the generous cheques that go with the achievement on the track, that splash of black ink on the sales catalogue page often overrides the more tangible considerations in the sales ring.
Every buyer has their own means of selecting and shortlisting prospective lots to bid on and often the process entails ticking a checklist of ‘fors’ to reduce the margin of error. Black type on the dam side is just one of those boxes, but an obvious strategic one at that.
A glance at the credentials of each of Sunday’s participants shows that there is only one Gr1 winner in the field. There are two other group winners, and a further two listed winners. The balance of five are stakes placed, while only one runner has no black type whatsoever. Those are all indicators of class and it is appropriate that we commence our analysis with a look at the sole Gr1 winner.
Formerly campaigned in the Norwegian flag of owner Knut Haug, and now running in the famous Avontuur red, white and blue, the Dennis Drier trained Bambina Stripes, pulled off a dramatic last gasp win in the SA Fillies Classic run over 1800m at Turffontein in March 2012. While we would not have believed it at the time, the Argentinian bred daughter of Equal Stripes has only managed one further win (and that in a progress plate) in her ensuing eleven runs.
Looking at the raw stats, the well bred specimen has tumbled in the merit ratings from a career high of 101 to a rather more modest 90 at the current time and appears to have a mental block about putting her best foot forward. This is often an indicator of a maternal distraction, but she should not be discounted and is always capable of putting it all together.
Her stablemate Pacific Dynasty races for Drakenstein Stud and is a quality seven time winning daughter of Dynasty. She blew in the betting in the Listed Thukela Handicap on July Day and ran accordingly. Prior to that she showed little spark in the Queen Palm Handicap. She is capable on her day of running a forward race, She meets Checcetti on 2,5 kgs better terms than when running a 1,50 length third to the De Kock filly in the Gerald Rosenberg Stakes.
De Kock Trio
Mike De Kock’s three way coupling will be a natural inclusion for Pick Six players and the man who goes for his eighth SA champion trainer title this week, will grab any contribution to his championship aspirations,with Sean Tarry breathing down his neck. Now racing in the Wilgerbosdrift silks, the top rated filly in the race and the possible De Kock stable elect (despite the jockey engagement and weight considerations) is the former Eric Sands trained Halfway To Heaven.
The Gr3 Prix Du Cap winner is a lovely daughter of Jet Master who rattled up four wins in a row in the Cape last year. It takes a decent sort to achieve that anywhere, and while she has yet to put her best foot forward in KZN this season, she was cramped when running just over seven lengths behind the equine superwoman, Beach Beauty, in the Gr1 Garden Province stakes on July Day.
The second of the De Kock attack trio is the Kahal mare Checcetti, who jumps from the best of the draw with ace jockey Anthony Delpech up. A winner of the Gr2 Gerald Rosenberg at her third last start earlier this year, and the Gr3 Jacaranda Handicap, she has failed to deliver in her last two outings. She gave Himalayan Hill 7,5 kgs in this race last year and only went down narrowly.
She is 2kgs better off this time round. The change of scenery back to KZN may be the catalyst required to get her to lift her game again. Rounding off De Kock’s team is the twice winning Gr1 placed Danehill Dancer mare Berry Blaze, who ran on nicely when just over two lengths behind stablemate Lehaaf in the Listed Thukela Handicap. She has been rather disappointing on the track though, and would need to build on that effort to have a shout here.
Glen Kotzen’s group placed Spectrum 4yo Beloved Betty comes out of a tough race just a fortnight ago, when unplaced behind Kolkata in the Gold Vase. Her previous two starts were not disgraceful, and although she faded in the Lusted Queen Palm, she could well prefer the 700m shorter here. She will obviously also be far more comfortable in her own company here, and is capable of surprising this lot if things go her way.
Last year’s winner Himalayan Hill returns to the scene of her greatest triumph. She has not won since and as noted is worse off with the likes of Checcetti. Mike Bass saddles a Jet Master coupling of Shimmering Jet and the year younger Daily Flight. Shimmering Jet appears the better of the two and ran a fair second to Hijacked at the course last time. Her previous start produced a rather distant 7,25 length third behind Gr1 Gold Cup runner Adobe Pink in the Listed Queen Palm Handicap. Daily Flight appears to have been out of her depth in the Champions Season environment, and is the only black type absentee in the race.
James Goodman’s Toreador mare Las Ramblas won the Listed Michael Roberts Handicap over the course and distance earlier this year. She famously also ran second in the 2011 Gr1 SA Fillies Guineas. It is worth mentioning that she finished in second some 10,25 lengths behind the brilliant Igugu there.
She ran a poor race when making the pace and being quietly fancied at her last outing, and looks to have a place chance at best. Formerly with the Puller family, the Dynasty mare Lineal Factor has changed stables as she races in the Middlefield Stud silks for Mark Dixon. While she carries a paperweight, she appears to have lost her zest for racing and appears an unlikely winner.
This event obviously represents a last chance saloon for a stakes win for many of the runners. The form and fitness considerations lean towards Halfway To Heaven, while Bambina Stripes is pure class and ability at her best. There may not be much to choose between the two in the final analysis.