A winner-take-all match race over a mile at Greyville in early May to launch the SA Champions Season extravaganza on the East Coast could go some way to creating some much needed hype.
And maybe even resolve the burning debate – who is top of the class in the 2017/18 3yo crop?
We are probably dreaming. Match race proposals tend to generate more talk than action these days. Limited cash resources and tight programming are the usual – to be fair, not necessarily invalid either – excuses.
A pity, as looking back at the still talked about duels between Brainteaser and Divine Act at Gosforth Park, and the Winning Form sponsored thriller of 1989 at Greyville, where Northern Princess beat Senor Santa, interest was generated beyond the capacity of any starry-eyed racing marketer’s advertising budget or marketing plan.
They were a rush!
The general consensus for the 2018 match is Justin Snaith’s Cape Fillies Guineas winner Snowdance versus the Gauteng Guineas star Monks Hood.
On ‘neutral ground’ at Greyville over a mile, with the gelding carrying 58kgs and the filly 55,5kgs.
The Querari gelding Monks Hood’s runaway victory in Saturday’s Gr2 Gauteng Guineas had the print and broadcast media in raptures and dishing the superlatives.
Amazing. Another Horse Chestnut. Freak. Worldbeater. Delighted owner Mary Slack observed that she didn’t even have to scream to get her boy home.
On Sunday at Greyville, every Natalian from Paul Lafferty to Craig Peters to the parking attendant was talking Monks Hood. Who can blame them? Really top horses have been a scarce commodity to emerge from the holiday province in recent years.
But should we be getting carried away?
There were no Cape visitors in the Guineas field. And most of the Cape Summer Season Gauteng raiders were despatched home from Kenilworth with their tails between their legs.
Saturday’s race was also on the short side for Tony Ruffel winner Surcharge, who raced from a wide draw and stayed on late. The highly vaunted and previously unbeaten Majestic Mambo was all over in the preliminaries and performed similarly in the race. A real boykie!
Our in-house handicappers also suggest that the reliability of the Gauteng Guineas result needs to be confirmed in time. The false run – closer to a 1400m than a mile – race was the second fastest of the eight around the turn on the day – and Monks Hood won the sprint for home.
But no playing the knowall Devil’s Advocate can detract from the fact that this is an extremely exciting 3yo crop – and a vintage one.
“This is our foundation for the future. It looks rock solid. It’s an exciting time for South African horseracing. This 3yo crop – both the girls and the boys – has achieved one of the highest average ratings midway through a season in recent years. On exposed form I would think that the fillies getting the sex allowance could be better than the colts. That could still change though as the season progresses, as it is a fact that the fillies mature at a much faster rate than their male counterparts,” suggests former handicapper Vee Moodley.
Kenilworth Racing Director Vidrik Thurling said that he initially thought that this was a bad crop given the fact that ‘they were beating each other too often in all centres’.
“When that happens there are only two scenarios – they are either collectively poor or, less often, special. Following some disagreement with the Ringer , I conceded that this was indeed a super crop.”
Vee Moodley went on to say that from a provincial perspective the Western Cape have the stronger crop in both sexes, with the exception of the sole KZN candidate Monks Hood – who ‘may be the best miler in his age group’.
“I would like to see Monks Hood run in the Greyville Guineas and then take his place in the Gold Challenge at WFA. That should be at his mercy,” he speculates.
The experienced racing administrator says that the most exciting thought is that there could even be some unexposed firepower.
He cited the example of subsequent dual SA Horse Of The Year Legal Eagle, who won his maiden in March and went on to be one of the leading 3yo’s of his generation at the end of the season.
Please comment and tell us who you think will be champion 3yo!