While we may be proven off the mark, the 2013 renewal of the R175 000 Gr3 Joburg Spring Fillies and Mares Challenge will probably not go down as a vintage year. Mike De Kock has won the race for the past three years with big names like Igugu, Welwitschia and Festival Of Fire, and nothing of like ilk quite jumps out of the page this time round.
De Kock is repre-sented this year by a trio of runners, including a mare who carries the same silks as Welwitschia.
The Gr2 SA Oaks winner Ilha Bela has been a typically versatile daughter of the great Fort Wood and has won her six races from 1400m to 2450m and lines up here as the second highest runner, bar one.
Ilha Bela returns after a five month break following a disappointing effort in the Gr1 President’s Champions Challenge on Champions day at the end of April this year. It is difficult to know what to expect of her. She is coupled with Bluroute and Al Kindi.
While both are probably going to need the outing, Bluroute did strike some improved form towards the end of last season, and ran a creditable second to the well performed Reflective Image on Super Saturday. Julius Mariba rides Bluroute, and with Anthony Delpech taking the reins of the grey, we can assume that Ilha Bela is the more likely of the two.
If De Kock doesn’t come up with the goods this year, then Joey Soma may just hold the trumpcard. Soma saddles the lovely Fort Wood filly, Athina. Like Ilha Bela, she races in the black and scarlet Wilgerbosdrift Stud silks and looks to be a very promising sort.
Athina won two of four, before going a fair fifth 2,15 lengths behind the brilliant Along Came Polly in the Gr1 Thekwini on Super Saturday. Soma has not been shy to express his opinion about her, and she could be the surprise package if coming out fit enough
Paul Matchett plunges the undefeated Albert Hall filly Queen Eliza into the deep end after two lower status wins. She could be just about anything. Gavin Van Zyl’s coupling of Lady Tatty and Princess Julietta, represent two consistent sorts who will be value in some books.
Piere Strydom rides Lady Tatty, a winner of 3 of her 12 starts. She beat Choir Maiden convincingly at her last start, but that one went down rather tamely at Scottsville on Sunday to surprise winner Preamble. The King Of Kings filly Princess Julietta is very fast and has been found wanting at her only start beyond 1200m. If she settles, she could surprise.
Kum Naidoo’s Kabool filly Genuine Leather is very fast and has registered her two wins over 1000m. She was considered good enough to contest the Gr1 Computaform Sprint and her ability to see out the extra ground (she is out of a Rocky Marriage mare) is under question.
In a race of limited depth, the rest look hard pressed. Gary Alexander’s Classic Illusion has not won in ages and would prefer further. The 2012 Gr2 SA Fillies Guineas winner Go Indigo has drawn poorly and has switched to a career on sand. She ran a fair fourth to Secret Magok last Thursday at the Vaal, but appears unlikely to cause the upset here.
The National Emblem mare Fanzene has won 5 of 30 starts, but has shown nothing in her formline to suggest that she should even be in this field. Weiho Marwing’s Eskimo Inn has not run for over four months, and besides a good second in a Pinnacle Stakes to Festival Of Fire, appears that she will also struggle here.
The nature of a weight for age contest suggests again that we should review the ratings and be guided accordingly. In a race like this where recent form and fitness appears quite sparse, it may be a prudent position to side with the likes of an unexposed improving lady like Athina.