The unkindest cut of all, a wind operation and a massive show of faith from a passionate owner have been the catalysts to the resurrection of the career of a 4yo gelding who faces the biggest test of his life in the R400 000 Gr2 Post Merchants at Greyville on Friday evening.
Professor Brian may not enjoy anything near a cult following yet amongst racing fans. But the son of Encosta De Lago has claims to being the most improved and consistent horse of the 2016/17 racing season.
There may not be an Equus Award in that category but trainer Joey Ramsden and part owner Brian Finch have done wonders as the 4yo gelding bids for his sixth win on the trot – and yet another friendly middle finger of defiance to the handicapper as he reaches for his first feature success – very much against the odds on paper, we hasten to add.
The Prof’s winning streak commenced at Kenilworth on 21 January where he won off a 58 rating. Three weeks ago and five handicaps later, he won off an 85 on the Greyville poly and races off a 91 on Friday evening. He has a mountain to conquer against some serious Gr1 sprinters – but even from a wide draw, the gut feel suggests he could well be equal to the task.
Lucky Houdalakis brings the SP top-rated Joan Ranger to Greyville for her second start at this track – her first being a solid third in the 2016 Gr3 Umzimkhulu Stakes as a 3yo.
Clearly improved as a 4yo, the Gr2 Camellia Stakes winner has shown her mettle with two solid Gr1 showings – her first when third behind Real Princess in the 2016 SA Fillies Sprint and her second tilt at this prestigious event under a month ago, when a level weights 2,80 length fifth to Carry On Alice.
That brings her into the picture – with her wide draw the only deterrent.
The 7yo Barbosa ran a very decent race in the Tsogo Sun Sprint when staying on well for third and 2,50 lengths behind Bull Valley.
He meets Search Party (who beat him 1,50 lengths) and Gulf Storm (a short head in arrears) on a kilo better terms and must be included if maintaining that level of form.
As a consistent 4yo, Cape Merchants winner Search Party can be relied upon to run another honest race and his second in the Tsogo Sun would have brought him along nicely.
He has run three nice races in KZN and will be ready to put his best foot forward.
The classy Redcarpet Captain has only his second run as a 4yo and with no race action for 38 weeks, his fitness must be taken on trust.
He won his last two races on the trot (on the polytrack) and the betting can be monitored as a guide to stable confidence.
Sophomore Sprint winner Lord Balmoral has pulled an awful draw and failed to show on his return run following a 3 month break when 10 lengths behind Purple Tractor at Scottsville in mid-April. The son of Star Witness has won 3 of his 8 starts and looks progressive.
The topweight Talktothestars is drawn beautifully at 3 and gets the services of leading heavyweight rider Bernard Fayd’herbe for the first time.
The son of Overlord, once SA’ s top-rated sprinter, ran a great race when rattling late to beat some top sorts when banking second cheque behind new Highlands stallion Rafeef in the Gr1 Computaform Sprint. He moved up dangerously in the Tsogo Sun Sprint but was bumped at the 250m and lost his momentum. He is better off with all of the five that ran with him there, and will strip very fit at his third run in five weeks.
Captain’s Causeway ran 9th and 3,65 lengths back in the Tsogo Sun Sprint and is a kilo better off here with both Search Party and Gulf Storm. That was the Sean Tarry-trained 4yo’s first run in 5 months and he looks likely to improve with the benefit of improved fitness.
Captain Swarovski ran worst of the sixth that run again after the Tsogo Sun Sprint. He finished 13th out of 16 there and his form is probably not quite good enough in this line up. He is catalogued on the BSA Super Sale next week.
Amazing Strike is holding his form nicely and with Anthony Delpech up with a good draw, he goes for a hat-trick of wins. The son of Ideal World beat Sunday’s Jubilee Handicap winner at his last start and is a possibility if running to his lifetime best rating.
Just As I Said is stablemate to Joan Ranger and enjoys the best of the draw. The 4yo steps up in class and has a bit to do.
Gulf Storm has drawn widest of all. The 6yo Gr1 Cape Flying Championship winner ran a nicely improved race last time when fourth behind Bull Valley in the Tsogo Sun Sprint. He was 2,55 lengths back and is a kilo worse off here with Barbosa – who finished ahead of him.
Gareth van Zyl fields the Captain Al gelding Redcarpet Captain that has won his last two starts over 1 200m on the Poly and the Alec Laird-trained Amazing Strike, winner of his last two starts, will be out to strike again.
The scratching of Pivotal Pursuit gives first reserve Mr Roy a run.The son of Western Winter is drawn very wide and should struggle to assert himself in this company.
In a fascinating race, Professor Brian is our selection to beat Joan Ranger and Talktothestars.