Justin Snaith looks to have strengthened his hold on the 2018 Vodacom Durban July silverware after ante-post favourite African Night Sky hacked up to run a terrific prep when winning the R300 000 Gr3 Cup Trial at Greyville on Saturday.
We suggested in our feature race preview that the high-riding Snaith Racing Team would buck the trend that Cup Trial winners generally don’t stamp themselves on the July, and the Cape Winter Triple Crown winner now looks likely to shorten in the big-race betting after an impressive run.
That despite the fact that the connections will be keenly awaiting the handicapper’s assessment of the 4yo gelding’s performance, which could see African Night Sky carrying as much as 3kgs more in the big race after a facile victory. He could not be penalised after his Sun Met sixth and he has been a horse that has flown below the handicapper’s radar.
Whatever his new rating, the positivity of a superb prep will hopefully offset any doubters in the African Night Sky supporters club and we cannot see his price drifting after this win.
African Night Sky was having only his second run post the Sun Met, and after running into trouble in a small field when beaten narrowly by stablemate Star Express a fortnight earlier, Hong Kong-bound Grant van Niekerk made amends in good style – although we weren’t convinced up to about the 300m marker as to how the young rider’s tactics were going to pan out.
African Night Sky jumped from a wide draw and loped along in last behind the twelve-strong field led by Celtic Captain and Head Honcho. At the 1000m, a rush of slow pace blood had MJ Byleveld taking the staying sort Ollivander round his field, and the son of Silvano led them for home.
With the field fanning out, African Night Sky was under the hands as Van Niekerk looked in, then out, then in again, before finally opting for the luxury of a switch around the tiring Head Honcho.
In a matter of strides, African Night Sky lengthened his stride and drew away to beat Crowd Pleaser by a flattering 0,75 lengths in a time of 110.18 secs.
The winner’s stablemate Platinum Prince ran his usual game race to bank third cheque, with Head Honcho staying on for fourth.
The disappointment of the race was Drill Hall Stakes shock winner Perovskia who never showed and only had Ollivander behind him.
Selected, purchased and pre-trained by Jane Thomas of Far End Racing, the winner is an R850 000 Cape Premier Yearling Sale graduate.
He has won 6 races with 2 places from 13 starts and took his stakes to R848 400, excluding the Winter Series bonus of R250 000.
Bred by Highlands, African Night Sky is a son of the 2003 Durban July winner Dynasty (Fort Wood), out of the six-time winning Starzene (Cozzene).
Gr3 Cup Trial (SAf-Gr3)
Greyville, South Africa, June 9, R300k, 1800m, turf, soft, 1.50.18
1 – AFRICAN NIGHT SKY (SAF), 59.0, b g 4, Dynasty (SAF) – Starzene (USA) by Cozzene (USA). Owner Mr A L A Crabbia; Breeder Highlands; trainer J Snaith; jockey G v Niekerk
2 – Crowd Pleaser (SAF), 56.0, b c 4, Captain Al (SAF) – Happy Jean by Charismatic (USA)
3 – Platinum Prince (SAF), 55.5, b g 4, Silvano (GER) – Spirit Ofthe Dance (SAF) by Goldmark (SAF)
Margins: 0.75, 0.15, 1.50