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De Kock 3yo’s To Show Paces On Saturday

Pick 6 - Race 4 @ 13h55 - R2,6 Million projected

The first Gr2 double feature of the season is upon us and the R400 000 Gr2 Joburg Spring Challenge is set to up the ante at Turffontein after a diet of bread and butter racing, coupled with the donuts of side shows and other silly distractions.

Real racing is what we have been craving and it is great to see some familiar big names back in action and stretching their legs ahead of the season that lies ahead.

A weight-for-age with penalties contest, 5yo’s and older carry 58kg, 4yo’s carry 57,5kg with 3yo’s set a 50 kg basic.  Winners of Gr1 get a 2kg penalty for each such win and Gr2 winners, 1kg.

Mike de Kock last won this event in 2012 with the smart Link Man – and in fact also won it the year prior to that with the classy fairer sex galloper, Gibraltar Blue. The champion trainer saddles a trio of runners, including the only two 3yo’s in the line-up.

Soqrat – looks top class

First of those is the Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes winner Soqrat, who has won 3 of his 4 starts like a horse going places. He has drawn nicely and if not in need of the run too much after his ten week break, could show his class off the 52kg mark.

Fellow Aussie-bred stablemate Alyaasaat was the first winner in South Africa for Darley Stallions’ Dawn Approach (Ire). He was bred from a mare by Distant View (US) and has shown top-class ability to date. He looks potentially held by Soqrat on their SA Champions Season clash when he went down 2 lengths – and even with the benefit of a recent run under the belt where he beat Iditarod Trail a fortnight ago, he cannot be the stable elect on jockey arrangements.

Third of the De Kock trio is Noble Secret, who has pulled a wide draw and should find this on the short side. The son od was weighted to win last time and is being targeted at the Summer Cup.

Hat Puntano – back from a long break

Mike and Adam Azzie return Hat Puntano to action. The newsmaking son of Hat Trick was imported into South Africa as a possible 2017 SA Triple Crown candidate. The Argentinian-bred dual Gr1 winner disappeared from the nominations for the Vodacom Durban July and then ran a shocker in his first start in mid September 2017 before winning the Gr2 Charity Mile last season. He has been rested since 6 January and a failed attempt to win the L’Órmarins Queen’s Plate. Efforts to track his fitness were not successful – Mike is away in Ireland and Adam did not take our call. Hat Puntano has the class but he is the unknown!

Champagne Haze has been battling to find his best form since that dazzling win in the Tommy Hotspur in February. With a good draw he could get lucky and rekindle that spark to find place money.

New Predator improved last time

New Predator ran fourth in this race last year behind Wonderwall and showed healthy pace at his 1 September pipe-opener when staying on well to beaten under a half length by Africa Rising and conceding 3kgs. The smart son of New Approach is capable of a big run and the bang in-form Gavin Lerena has a strike rate of impressive proportions since his return from injury.

The former Vaughan Marshall Gr1 galloper Always In Charge is under new ownership and has not run for 19 weeks. His form is not up to scratch in recent times to suggest a big effort here.

Topweight Coral Fever is likely to need it, not having seen a racetrack since the Vodacom Durban July. It is also on the short side for him.

The 8yo Captain Aldo – never goes down without a fight

Now an 8yo, St John Gray’s soldier Captain Aldo has probably seen his best days but is a big hearted sort who takes the fight to the opposition. He may be held by New Predator on his last run – but fitness may have been the contributing factor there as it was his first start in five months.

Romany Prince, Full Mast and Africa Rising make up the remainder of the field. The latter, winner of the Gr3 Byerley Turk could be the right one, having found form and won his last two starts. Sean Tarry won the race last year with Wonderwall.

De Kock’s 3yo’s will have to be decent to win this but they have already showed their bona fides and could be the right pair.

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