Some horses, much like people, just have a knack of capturing the public imagination. Duncan Howells’ smart Antonius Pius 3yo My Sanctuary is one of those characters. Supremely talented, but difficult to train, she becomes impossible on race day. She returns to Clairwood in the Conditions Plate on Sunday, and the scene of one of the most forgettable incidents on our racetracks in recent times.
The presence of a talent of the ilk of the high quality My Sanctuary, is just the tonic to get the juices flowing on a weekend where we are racing for a maximum prize of R91 650. Times are tough! But things perk up as we go into month end, so despair not.
The Fillies and Mares Conditions Plate run over the straight Clairwood 1200m on Sunday is our focus of attention on a weekend where feature races are more scarce than a free lunch. The seven horse field is brimful with speed and class and what it lacks for in glitz and glamour, it certainly makes up for in its promise of entertainment. That said, it appears that only four of the participants are likely winners.
That quartet is made up of My Sanctuary, Joyful Spirit, Path To Travel and the Australian bred, Honorine. This will be the Ashburton based My Sanctuary’s first run at Clairwood since Sunday 17 March.
It was on that fateful day at the start of the King’s Pact Stakes, where the talented then 2yo, first made headlines. High drama developed when the 13 to 20 favourite reared and fell over backwards, appearing to bump her head. After having a good look at her, the Vet gave Alec Forbes the all clear, and together with her chief rival in the betting, War Path, who was drawn alongside her, she was reloaded.
With My Sanctuary’s gate failing to open on time, and with Raat Ki Rani jumping slowly, the jockeys looked to the starter for a false start call. We are still waiting for it. To make matters worse for punters, In terms of rule 220.127.116.11, the fact that My Sanctuary had run third meant that she could not be declared a non runner. The result thus stood. Enraged punters crowded the Stipes and Jockeys Room after the race and blocked entrances. The police had to be called.
The youngest female in Sunday’s lineup, My Sanctuary boasts a smart record of three wins from her six starts, and put the King’s Pact nightmare behind her with a smooth win in the R200 000 Gr2 The Debutante at Scottsville at her next start. The precocious 2yo achieved the distinction at the same time of being a first stakes winner for her promising young sire. She was hampered when running unplaced in the Gr1 Alan Robertson at her next start, but came out firing after a rest on 29 September, when running on smartly behind Mr Whatever over the Scottsville 1200m.
While she received over 8 kgs from the winner in a small field, she showed smart toe and appeared more settled that she has been in the past. She will get an apprentice allowance off her back, and Craig Zackey, who rode her last time, is worth every ounce of the weight saver. It should count in her favour inside that crucial final 100m.
Dennis Drier and Sean Cormack have developed into an invincible combination in KZN, and they team up with the Daylami filly Joyful Spirit. She appeared in need of her last start, when a slightly lacklustre fourth behind Preamble, and will improve here with blinkers fitted for the first time.
Alyson Wright’s Western Winter filly Path To Travel returns from a five month break and gets the services of Kevin Shea. She has won two of her four starts, and impressed as a classy powerful galloper. She was given a break after an unplaced effort in the KRA Fillies Guineas, and has shown her liking for the 1200m. She ran freely in the Fillies Guineas and only finished 5,40 lengths off Festival Of Fire.
Mike De Kock’s Australian bred Honorine is the best weighted runner in the race and her prospects are boosted by the presence in the saddle of Anton Marcus. A winner of her first two career starts and Gr1 placed as a 2yo, Honorine last won over 1200m at the Vaal in June, and returns after an unplaced Umngeni Handicap run on Super Saturday. The 4yo is very smart on her day, and her in and out performances may be linked to her respiratory noises, displayed from time to time.
The Newton mare Indigo Child gets 4kgs off her back, courtesy of apprentice Jose Barnes. It has no exotic bet significance whatsoever, but she is coupled with My Sanctuary, and while vastly inferior to her stablemate on paper ability, she did cause the earth to tremble last time when getting the better of Eventual Angel over Sunday’s course and distance. That was just an MR 74 Handicap, and she jumps up a few leagues here.
It was also only her second career win, after shedding her maiden almost a year ago at Scottsville. While they say that weight stops trains, she looks likely to miss the bus here. The Chris Erasmus trained Cotswold is a 6yo daughter of The Sheik. She is a capable three time winner, who shows good pace and has produced the odd forward surprise effort at times. She nevertheless looks pressed to challenge here.
Wendy Whitehead’s 7yo mare Two Tone Rocka is a gallant sort, but looks to have an uphill battle on her hands in this company. She is a winner of 5 of her 48 starts, but appears best at 1000m. She almost came down when clipping heels at her last start, and appears to be an optimistic consideration of even grabbing a back end of the quartets berth in this field.
The Duncan Howells yard is in good form, and My Sanctuary’s young apprentice rider is shown himself to be reliable and capable of holding his own. If she doesn’t fool around and cause havoc. she should make them gallop. Honorine is fronted by individually one of the best jockeys and trainers in South Africa. She could bounce back to her best in the blink of an eye.
Path To Travel looks unexposed and capable of steaming out fresh. She has shown enough ability to make her presence felt. Then Joyful Spirit is smart and the blinkers could do the trick for the astute Sean Cormack. It should be a fascinating race to get the Place Accumulator under way.