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Gr3 Joburg Spring Challenge at Turffontein on Saturday

Love Struck

Perfect Match. The Kahal gelding Love Struck (red and blue silks) looks cherry ripe to score in Saturday’s Gr3 Joburg Spring Challenge

The R 200 000 Gr3 Joburg Spring Challenge to be run over 1450m at Turffontein on Saturday sees a few Highveld Season aspirants commencing their long road to glory. The 2013 Gr1 SA Classic winner Love Struck may warrant another chance in what is a rather mixed bag field.

The Turffontein double feature weight for age programme offers a perfect early season opportunity to get the bigger wheels rolling and the cobwebs out of some dark corners. With most of the field naturally looking like they will have to improve their fitness levels, the race may be tailormade for a fellow like Love Struck.

Trainer Charles Laird took over the Kahal gelding from his former conditioner Paul Lafferty after a dismal effort in the Vodacom Durban July. Laird brought Love Struck out in mid September for his season opener in a Conditions Plate, and that may just prove the edge that the 4yo needs to get one over his rivals. Love Struck’s ability and distance suitability have been much debated issues, and there is probably a strong school of thought to argue that Saturday presents an optimum opportunity.

He stumbled last time when finding very little extra late under Andrew Fortune and went a little one paced to run 3,50 lengths behind Royal Zulu Warrior. He will strip fitter here and has the enthusiasm of Anton Marcus, who won the Listed Politician Stakes on him, to help the cause.

Woodruff Pair

Geoff Woodruff’s 4yo pair of Sabadell and Master Sabina are both capable on their day. Sabadell ran unplaced on Super Saturday in an MR 102 Handicap at Greyville. His earlier form over this trip in Gauteng was promising though and good places in the Graham Beck Stakes and the Dingaans bring him firmly into the reckoning here.

Master Sabina had good form before being pushed over ground in the Jubilee Handicap, and he is a very promising sort who could go on to better. He has not run in four months, and thus will have to be watched for fitness and improvement may come with racing.

Planetary Music

The former Scott Kenny trained Moon Of Rangoon has won three of his last five starts, and takes on his first serious test here. S’manga Khumalo rides the four time winning Mogok gelding, who gets the blinkers again. Roy Magner’s Western Winter gelding Arctic Sun is another runner who dips his toe into deeper waters for the first time. While on paper he has a mountain to climb, he is a horse who has continued to show encouraging improvement.

A winner of 3 of 20 starts, he is something of a course and distance specialist and while found lacking the ability at stakes level as a 3yo, he may be a typically improving sort, and warrants another chance to show his mettle. Arctic Sun is probably the fittest horse in the field, and won’t be lying down when the big guns are firing late in the race.

Storm Warning

Spike Lerena’s American Storm met Love Struck in that Conditions Plate three weeks ago, but finished five lengths behind him. His recent form is not inspiring, and besides the fitness factor, it is difficult making a case for him.

Mike De Kock’s enigmatic Toreador gelding Link Man won this event last year, but has done little since and has not run an unplaced effort in the Horse Chestnut Stakes at the end of March. He is the jointly highest rated runner in the race, and thus technically weighted for a big run. While Anthony Delpech rides him again and knows him well, it is very difficult to suggest that the grey could win it. He is also not very well drawn.

Long Rest

Alec Laird’s 2012 SA Derby dead heater Royal Bencher has not put his hoof on a racecourse since an unplaced run in the 2012 Vodacom Durban July. The son of Greys Inn is a classy sort who will be assisted by the genius Piere Strydom, but should need it. Coenie De Beer’s Depardieu was the subject of a High Court challenge last week in a bid to secure his possible place in the final line up for the Gr2 Emerald Cup.

The former Dean Kannemeyer trained gelding has fallen from grace since showing good promise early in his career. He has also had bleeding problems and cannot be fancied here.

Highly Vaunted

Mike Azzie’s high profile galloper Potala Palace was an Emerald Cup entrant, but failed to make the cut for Africa’s richest sand race. He ran unplaced behind Jackson at his last start in the Gr1 Champions Cup on Super Saturday.

Plenty To Prove

Potala Palace frankly has everything to prove at this point of his career, and has not won a race in close on two years. It is very difficult getting excited about his prospects at this stage of the game and the entire will need to do something quickly to redeem his reputation.

Joey Soma starts his 2013 Summer Cup campaign with his Tiger Ridge gelding Wagner, who sets out to achieve the big race double after shocking the world in last year’s event. He will be ridden for the first time by top KZN jockey Sean Cormack, and could run well fresh.

Kumaran Naidoo’s Pierneef is thrown in at the deep end. The son of Spectrum was a fair fourth in the Gr3 Byerley Turk behind Capetown Noir and won his last start over the Vaal 1800m. He is a lightly raced two time winner, but needs to prove that he can pace it at this level.

Shrewd Move

Charles Laird looks to have done well to have gotten Love Struck into this kind of advantageous competitive position. He looks well set to record another win and is selected at the expense of value bet Arctic Sun and Sabadell.

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