Trainer Johan Janse Van Vuuren had less than no luck in the Cape Summer Of Champions Season but he could take his next step to a classic prize in the months ahead. He saddles the promising Australian-bred New Predator, who will start very fancied to win the R400 000 Gr3 Tony Ruffel Stakes at Turffontein on Saturday.
Just 2,75 lengths was the difference between Van Vuuren celebrating a rare double Gr1 success and nothing at all when another Australian-bred in his Teofilo colt Brazuca was a fast-finishing runner up in both the Cape Guineas and Investec Cape Derby down South.
And then on Saturday, Belong To Me – in the very same silks- was not disgraced when under two lengths off Gulf Storm in the Cape Flying Championship.
But that is all modern history now as the yard approaches the Highveld season with renewed vigour and enthusiasm, and New Predator could give them a flying start in the Tony Ruffel.
A son of New Approach, New Predator has not finished further back than second in his five outings and few will forget his titanic duel with new star Noah From Goa in the Gr2 Dingaans on Sansui Summer Cup at the end of November.
Noah From Goa went on to win the Cape Guineas and run a cracking third in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and the form has been franked in blue chip fashion.
New Predator had a stretch in between when he narrowly beat the highly thought of Tarry galloper Buckland over 1200m at the Vaal a month ago.
Racing off a 107, he should be primed to fire for a massive effort over the 1450m – and over and above his straight advantage at the weights, he receives 2kgs from two of his prime rivals, in Champagne Haze and KZN hope, Celtic Captain.
The Gary Alexander trained Champagne Haze is a course and distance winner and a big earner courtesy of his terrific win in the CTS Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup late last year.
Unlike New Predator’s smooth passage, the half-brother (by Kahal) to superstar Pierre Jourdan hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons at his last start when a well beaten odds-on favourite, behind Lunar Approach in an MR 93 Handicap last time.
The winner – who finished 6,50 lengths ahead of a flat-footed Champagne Haze – then went to Cape Town and was beaten over 10 lengths by Illuminator in the CTS Million Dollar.
There were seemingly valid excuses for Champagne Haze – from unsuitable riding tactics on the ground on the day to him being less ready than expected – and there will be many waiting to see him return to winning ways under Andrew Fortune.
Gavin Van Zyl-trained Celtic Captain looks to validate the strength of the KZN form and this son of Captain Al has won 3 of his 7 starts in good style.
He beat older horses last time when fitted with blinkers for the first time and could be anything at his first Joburg jump. He has it all to do at the weights on paper, but is not exposed at feature level as yet.
Met Day heroes Justin Snaith and Piere Strydom team up with the enigmatically talented Lineker – another Australian bred 3yo who has show decent ability.
The son of Star Witness jumps from a 1 draw but looks held by New Predator on his 4,50 length fourth in the Dingaans, where he stalled in the final stages.
Strydom has questioned this fellow’s commitment in giving of his best and it will be interesting to see how long he avoids the unkindest cut of all. Victory here would go some way to establishing his credentials, though!
The Aussies hold a strong hand in the race and Mike De Kock saddles Magic Albert’s son Suyoof, a recent post-maiden winner.
The lightly raced gelding was narrowly beaten by Brazuca on debut and has won his last two starts – albeit beating little of consequence. He jumps from a tough 10 draw and the top yard will have a line through his stablemate Noah From Goa as to his hopes against New Predator.
Ormond Ferraris trained Romany Prince has drawn even wider, but must have some sort of place shout after his eyecatching second place chase behind the boom galloper Abashiri in the Listed Sea Cottage Stakes three weeks ago.
He received 2,5kgs when beating the promising Malak El Moolook at his penultimate start over Saturday’s track and trip.
Malak El Moolook is one of the Tarry attack here and he may have found the Sea Cottage Stakes too far when 6,15 lengths behind Abashiri.
His stablemate Rikitikitana looks the better, even though running a shocker in the Dingaans when finishing double digits behind the winner. He has shown a nice turn of foot, but may find this on the sharpish side.
Anton Marcus joins forces with Met winner Alec Laird with Danza, who shed his maiden over the course and distance at his seventh try, at his penultimate start.
The rest look to have plenty to do and best of those may be Le Clos, who gets thrown in the deep end (excuse the pun) by Mike Azzie. He has a decent 2 draw in his favour, but should struggle.
A man with a shrewd eye in Mike de Kock suggested the Dingaans runner-up will go places.
His own Noah From Goa has outstripped all expectations – New Predator remains a confident choice to hold Champagne Haze and Lineker – with an upset looking unlikely.
Old School Leader
Saturday’s Turffontein feature race honours one of the great old school racing administrators of years gone by.
The late Tony Ruffel was a former Steward, Chairman of the Transvaal Owners and Trainers Association, as well as a Chairman of the National Federation of Owners and Trainers(NATFED).
He was appointed Chairman of the then Jockey Club of SA in 1981. His wife Joan made history when becoming the first female Steward in our history when elected to the board of the Newmarket Turf Club.