There is bound to be a lot more popping of champagne corks on the third floor of the Kenilworth Grandstand than on the track on Saturday. A poorly supported eight race programme and the Gr3 Champagne Stakes starting with just seven runners speaks of a racing centre that appears to be floundering with each passing winter.
On the raw facts of the simple stats, there is something wrong in Cape Town. Certainly in winter.
With R100 000 more to play for this year, we only have seven runners turning up for the feature race.
In 2013 the Champagne Stakes hosted 18 horses. In 2012, there were 12. In 2011, there were 16. In 2010, there were 13.
The debate around whether there should be any racing at all in the Cape in the winter months gains further momentum every year.
It is well known that the winter rains often make the training tracks at both Milnerton and Phillipi unplayable for much of June and July, and then this month is a traditional housekeeping time with trainers steering clear of racing and doing things like flu vacs and giving their charges a breather.
It is also a popular holiday month for many that can afford the luxury.
The one bright light will be the house full signs that were put up earlier this week for the National Women’s Day charity celebrations that are being held on course.
The presence of visiting jockeys Anton Marcus and Kevin Shea will also spark some interest, but one feels for the local middle of the road jockeys and their already stretched overdraft facilities.
They live and ride work through three months of sparse programming, lost meetings, small fields and now KZN hotshots Marcus and Shea come cherry picking!
It is pleasing to see though that Phumelela have increased the feature stake from R150 000 to R250 000 in line with the national graded race minimum stake policy.
The race itself should make for a relatively easy passage for exotic players with the weight-for –age terms suggesting that only two horses can win it.
The preference is for Kevin Shea’s mount, the gallant Ashaawes mare Priceless Jewel .
Young Adam Marcus has kept this seven time winner on the boil the whole year and she won’t get an easier opportunity to pick up a R250k Gr3 prize in her life.
A model of consistency, she won the Listed Olympic Duel Stakes over Saturday’s course and distance at her penultimate start and then rallied strongly to be denied a whisker by Butterfly Girl in the Ladies Mile last time.
She meets Justin Snaith’s Captainofmysoul again after beating her by 2,75 lengths in the Olympic Duel.
Priceless Jewel is 3,5kgs better off with her and counting further against Captainofmysoul will be her PE road trip and tough race behind Yoshie in the interim.
She is a capable course and distance winner but will need to keep Priceless Jewel in her sights.
Glen Kotzen won this race last year with champion Princess Victoria and in 2010 with Katici Princess.
He saddles the pacy Lake Coniston mare, The Witch Doctor, who returns after a 27 week rest following her pulling up lame on Met Day.
This will be tough for her against a bang-in-form and fit Priceless Jewel.
Vaughan Marshall’s diminutive trier Als Bonanza runs in the same silks as Captainofmysoul. She is way out at the weights to suggest she could do any more than run into a minor place at best.
She was beaten 2 lengths in the Olympic Duel Stakes in receipt of 9,5kgs by Priceless Jewel and now runs at level weights. The conclusion is not rocket science!
Riaan Van Reenen’s 7yo Var mare Knock ‘Em Out is another who would probably have to run without a jockey on her back to have any chance of beating the top two.
Mike Bass’ Jet Master mare Butterfly Girl finished well back in the Gr3 Final Fling Stakes on Sunday.
That poor showing followed two good straight wins. Her four career wins have been from 1400m to a mile and she looks unlikely to pace it with Priceless Jewel over the shorter trip on Saturday.
The National Emblem mare Cosmic Flower looks to be making up numbers and is patently outclassed.
Full marks to the Marcus’ and Armitages. They have found a perfect race for Priceless Jewell and her eighth win looks to be just about in the bag.
With another Marcus up, Justin Snaith’s Captainofmysoul is a natural danger if there is any fluffing of the lines.