Weichong Marwing could make it a happy homecoming when he jets in from Hong Kong this weekend to partner the very decent Fort Wood filly Close The Gap for veteran trainer Ormond Ferraris in the R500 000 Gr2 Gauteng Fillies Guineas. The race is the first leg of the R3,5 million Wilgerbosdrift SA Triple Tiara.
Ferraris trained last year’s Triple Tiara winner Cherry On The Top but worryingly scoffed at suggestions that Close The Gap was the filly to beat here.
He told Tabnews that Close The Gap was ‘no Cherry On The Top’ and pointed out that Joey Soma’s Athina won the Three Troikas Stakes well and that the current ratings may be flawed.
“I’m never confident,” he said. “I’ve been in this game too long – there are too many downs and not too many ups.” Close The Gap has won three of her five career starts and finished second in the other two. Her third win was a smart victory in the Gr3 Gauteng Fillies Mile where she beat Athina at level weights.
Way off peak fitness, she was too far back from a wide draw in the Three Troikas Stakes over 1450mon the inside track last time out but still made up nearly nine lengths in the final 400m to finish second to Athina. She meets Athina on 3kg better terms and, providing she does not go flat in her second run after a layoff, she should reverse that form.
Joey Soma’s Athina is a smart filly who looks like she is improving. She won the Three Troikas in great style as discussed in Close The Gap’s assessment and just has to overcome her 14 draw to be very competitive.
Johan Janse Van Vuuren’s Winter Star is the joint highest rated filly in the race with Close The Gap and ran on well enough in the Three Troikas when a 1,75 length third. She lost a shoe in that race and now enjoys a weight turnaround of 4kgs with Athina and a kilo with Close The Gap. The major obstacle for Winter Star must be her 15 draw, and we have little doubt that she will enjoy the mile test for the first time.
Mike De Kock’s Tiger Ridge filly Santa Carolina (a typical grey from the famed Wilgerbosdrift ‘I’ family) has won her only two starts in good style. She has no chance with the top rated fillies if the handicapper is to be believed, but is lightly raced and scopy.
She steps up to a mile, which she should enjoy, and is well drawn at 2. She could make them run of she proves competitive in this class level. Her stablemate Dashing Scarlet (coincidentally another grey) has won once and been placed twice second. Her last outing, when running the smart Fort Bellini to a 1,25 length second was very promising.
Van Zyl Duo
Gavin Van Zyl saddles Along Came Polly and Mohave Princess. Along Came Polly has failed to carry her 2yo brilliance into her 3yo year and comes in here off a Cape season which she found tough going. She will need to lift herself off the canvas and while she is talented, it could be difficult at her first Gauteng outing.
The Devon Air takes winner Mohave Princess found the 2400m of the Listed Sun Classique Handicap too far last time. She has failed to fire at this level and will be watched for improvement.
Geoff Woodruff saddles a trio of Arcetri Pink, Not Sulking and Ntombe. Arcetri Pink tries a mile for the first time and flopped last time behind Athina in the Three Troikas Stakes. The daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar has shown better form over shorter and the jury is now out on her.
Anton Marcus rides the Trippi filly Not Sulking. The Jooste owned Klawervlei bred was withdrawn from the Three Troikas as a result of an irregular blood count but has won two of her five starts and steps into the feature arena as an uknown quantity.
The third of the Woodruff runners is Ntombe. She ran a poor race at the Vaal a week ago and was also scratched from the Three Troikas with an irregular blood count.
Charles Laird’s strike rate this season is living proof that all of his runners need to be taken very seriously. He saddles the consistent daughter of Admire Main Admiral’s Eye.
Her smart placings in the Gr1 Thekwini and the Gr3 Gauteng Fillies Mile show that she is not far off the best of her age group and she jumps from a beneficial 3 draw here.
Piere Strydom stays loyal to Sean Tarry’s Trippi filly For The Lads, despite a disappointing 3yo season. She has shown nothing of and ran just under eight lengths behind Athina in the Three Troikas. We will watch her performance from a distance for now.
Sarasota ran handily in the Three Troikas but was beaten three lengths and now has to overcome a 12 draw. Wallace Tolmay’s Kings V ran on well for fourth in the Three Troikas and now has the advantage of a 1 draw. She could be a quartet kicker if things go her way.
Despite her trainer’s cautionary comments, we are siding with Close The Gap to carry those famous silks to glory on the big day and give Mr Ferraris one of racing’s ups. She is selected to beat Santa Carolina and Athina, with Winter Star a natural danger. We will know after the race if the ratings are flawed.