The tussle between incumbent Mike De Kock and his rival Sean Tarry for supremacy and the right to wear the crown of SA Champion Trainer continues as we enter the final week of the current season. The two go head to head in the MR 103 Handicap on the Vaal sand on Tuesday, where De Kock may hold the ace with the talented Right Beauty.
The sub plot of the ding dong battle between these two top yards may well be interpreted as a figment of the colourful imag-ination of a racing media desperate for needle. Unlike the jockey title, where a substantial cash carrot is dangled, the trainer title is more about prestige and public relations.
After eight years on the throne, De Kock will not be capitulating without a fight and while he has only four runners to Tarry’s eight representatives at this particular meeting, he holds the upper hand here.
De Kock sends out the Right Approach gelding Right Beauty who has been threatening to win for over a year now. Right Beauty started his career in storming fashion and won on debut before being placed in the 2011 Gr2 SA Nursery.
Always held in high esteem by his connections, he failed to crack it at the higher levels and he has astonishingly only won one race since then. That said, he has shown positive resolve at his last three sand starts, when staying on stoutly and looks ready to win again.
The Geoff Woodruff trained Killua Castle is an interesting runner. The 3yo gelding is a son an Australian bred son of Churchill Downs and has his third run on this surface.
He has been placed at both of his previous two starts and his Classic race placed efforts as well as an excellent fourth on the Scottsville turf last time in a Graduation Plate behind Cup Trial winner Astro News, show that he has the ability.
Kum Naidoo’s Storm Surf is a lighty raced son of Kahal and he won well over the course and distance last time in a Pinnacle Plate. He easily accounted for Eugenes by 1,75 lengths with Right Beauty staying on another 2,25 lengths further back. Storm Surf is 1kg better off with Eugenes for that beating and is a half kilo worse of with Right Beauty.
Mike Azzie saddles the Fort Wood gelding Eugenes as well as the two good fillies Dragon Vein and Magic Smoke. Dragon Vein won her first three starts and looked promising before going off the boil at her next three outings. She is poorly drawn on the very outside of her opposition but has a paperweight 50kgs on her back and could challenge for the places.
Magic Smoke is a very capable 4yo daughter of Fort Wood and is bang in form. She won well over the mile last time out beating Uncle Tommy and Right Beauty. She meets the latter on 1,5 kgs worse terms for that beating of 1,75 lengths and the distance may be the leveller here.
Having arrived back in South Africa on Sunday following his victorious raid on the International Jockey Challenge in Istanbul last week, Piere Strydom makes for an interesting engagement to ride the Scott Kenny trained Bay Route. The rare son of Silvino stayed on well for fourth behind Across The Ice at his opening sand effort last time and could improve further with the master up. He has to overcome a wide draw though. Sean Tarry’s coupling of the gallant mare Follow The PIper and the Australian bred gelding, Crown Heights will have their followers.
Follow The Piper bounced back strongly last time with an eyecatching second to stablemate Across The Ice in a 1200m Pinnacle Stakes. She was well beaten by Storm Surf at her previous start but as a ten time winner, has obvious capabilities. Crown Heights blotted his copybook by finishing fifty lengths back last time and there is no explanation offered in the official Stipes Report of the afternoon. If that run is ignored, he has a lightweight and a good draw in his favour and is capable of delivering serious challenge.
Paul Matchett’s two runners are the eight time winner Raise The Bar and the Kahal gelding Boy Oh Boy. The latter is drawn against the paint and is set to carry only 48 kgs. He has been battling of late, but is a place prospect with those factors in his favour. Raise The Bar is a good mare on her day but has not won this year and may be ready for the more sedentary life in the breeding paddocks.
Dominic Zaki’s Keagan’s Jet is another lightly weighted fellow, who appears much better on this surface. He is a multiple course and distance winner and is an obvious consideration. Interestingly he is 4,5 kgs better off with Storm Surf for a 1,25 length course and distance beating over the course and distance in May.
While Mike Azzie is a master of the sand and his trio must be included, we are leaning towards the classy males, Right Beauty and Killua Castle. Right Beauty carries the blinkers for the second time and his one big issue of getting into his races early enough could be overcome with the tuning tool. Killua Castle is a good sort who has shown his proximity to the best of his generation with some forward efforts. He only has to put his best foot forward to win here.