The return match of the two crack Silvano colts who dominated the SA Triple Crown first leg looks to be a major drawcard in the R2 million Gr1 SA Classic to be run over 1800m at Turffontein on Saturday.
The duel between Piere Strydom on the Gauteng Guineas winner Janoobi and Anthony Delpech on the flying runner-up Al Sahem in early March had racing enthusiasts on the edge of their seats.
The Gr2 success was a magic milestone moment too for trainer Mike de Kock who celebrated his 3000th winner.
The two rivals meet head on again on Saturday over 200m further, as Janoobi aims to keep De Kock’s hopes of another Triple Crown success alive – 18 years after he won his first with the great Horse Chestnut.
The Guineas victory was a gutsy show of raw ability from the smart Janoobi, who had just returned from an energy sapping trip to Cape Town, where he had run a cracking fourth behind new Klawervlei stallion prospect William Longsword in the CTS Mile.
He won under a peach of a ride from the front by Strydom and known as being not the easiest of characters, Janoobi is reported to be settling better as he is taught to conserve his energy in his races.
This will give the Al Sahem supporters something to think about as the general consensus after their last clash was that Al Sahem would use the extra ground to exact his revenge.
Is it that simple?
We suggest caution.
Strydom is a master at manipulating the pace to suit his needs and the small field will certainly play into his hands. Janoobi is also out of an unraced Rakeen mare – which gives hope of some stamina reserves, although there is nothing proven to suggest the family stays.
There is no question that Sean Tarry’s Al Sahem will be a lively challenger.
His dam Alderry did stay and in fact ran third in the SA Fillies Classic on this day seven years ago behind Spiced Gold.
Considerably less experienced than Janoobi, Al Sahem was having only his third outing in the Guineas.
Lack of racing experience was cited as one of the reasons he was beaten.
He is bound to have come on from that and if trainer Sean Tarry needs to hot things up a bit for his opponent, he has two others in the race that can go up there to ensure Janoobi feels every inch of the 1800m.
Besides Janoobi, Mike de Kock has the very decent SP top-rated Heavenly Blue, who looks overdue to grab a first Gr1 success after consistent performances.
After winning his first two starts with ease, the son of Snitzel ran on powerfully in both the Gr3 Graham Beck Stakes and the Gr2 Dingaans, before travelling to Cape Town for the Cape Guineas.
Running from a poor draw, he can be excused an ordinary run in the Mother City and was then called up for the Gauteng Guineas.
He once again took a while to fire the engines but was finishing strongly for a 1,50 length third.
His dam only won to a mile, but his relaxed style of racing and his powerful finishes shown to date suggest that the 1800m will be well within his compass.
The Unagi connections obviously believe their gelding can be competitive at this level, and the small field does give everybody a fair chance of earning.
The son of Admire Main is the most experienced horse in the field and has won 4 of his 13 starts. Craig Zackey takes over from the injured/suspended Andrew Fortune.
Unagi failed to settle at his only start at 18000m when beaten 4 lengths by Let It Rain and showed prominently in the Gauteng Guineas when falling away to be beaten just under 6 lengths by Janoobi.
Raymond Danielson jumps aboard Tilbury Fort for Sean Tarry.
The son of Horse Chestnut ran a decent prep a fortnight back when beaten by a clever ride on the promising Coral Fever.
He did run fourth under 3 lengths back to Janoobi in the Gauteng Guineas, and while his sole blot on an overall consistent copybook was his trip to the Cape for the CTS Mile, he did catch the eye when chasing Matador Man home in the Secretariat Stakes in early December.
The third of the Tarry trio, and the ride of S’manga Khuumalo, Furiosa jumps from the rails draw and will be looking for improvement on his 8 lengths unplaced finish in the Gauteng Guineas.
The son of Fastnet Rock was reported to have pulled up lame and may warrant another chance.
He was beaten 4 lengths by Orchid Island into second in the Sea Cottage Stakes three starts back, and then showed genuine resolve over the Turffontein inside 1800m to beat the older Amsterdam in an MR80 Handicap. It has to be said that Amsterdam has struggled to assert himself in three starts since.
It is difficult seeing Furiosa beat the top three.
Cape West Coast trainer Andre Nel saddles the only out-of-province challenger in Kampali Campari.
History is not really on his side – the last Cape horse to win this race was the Mike Bass trained English Garden back in 2011.
The lightly raced son of Querari has run all his three races at Kenilworth and will be having his first outing on the Highveld.
He has won two of those three starts (always well supported in the betting) well and steps up from a mile to the 1800m for the first time.
He remains a dark horse in terms of his upside but must have plenty of scope for improvement.
His Captain Al dam only won up to 1400m, but the manner of the way he stayed on over a mile last time suggested he would get more.
Johan Janse van Vuuren trained Crowd Pleaser has registered both of his wins on the Greyville polytrack.
His turf form, including a modest 7 lengths off Orchid Island in the Listed Sea Cottage Stakes, suggests he could struggle to assert in this company.
Alaadel is the third of the De Kock coupling.
The son of Sebring was carded to run last Saturday. (The details of that run can be slotted in here)
He is the most junior rated of the nine runners and tries the 1800m for the first time after winning 2 of his first 6 starts.
His sole venture into feature company was in the Listed Sea Cottage Stakes where he ran a distant last after being reported not striding out by his jockey. That effort can be ignored and he must have outside place prospects in a small field.
All eyes will be on the top trio as tactics are likely to play a major role in the outcome.
The pace is likely to be on courtesy of Sean Tarry and one cannot imagine Piere Strydom being allowed to dictate too much on Janoobi.
De Kock has strong back-up in the form of Heavenly Blue who will relish the opportunity to come on late off a decent gallop.
Al Sahem lacks experience but has shown great potential and he could show us just how good he is on Saturday.
It should be a terrific race – whoever wins it.