Mike de Kock won the SA Classic in 2017 with the Australian-bred Heavenly Blue and with a powerful four-pronged attack on Saturday, the multiple champion looks to be the only hurdle standing between PE raider National Park and glory.
De Kock is enjoying a great season with what looks to be one of his best 3yo attacks in many years and such is the wealth of his arsenal, he sends Cape Guineas winner Soqrat to take on his elders in the Hawaii Stakes, while he brings a quartet of class to try and stop Yvette Bremner’s East Cape visitor.
The top-rated National Park is on offer currently at 5-2 with Hollywoodbets – see the betting here – and has continued to surprise both friend and foe since breaking onto the national scene with a good win in the Graham Beck Stakes at Saturday’s venue in November 2018.
His run in the Dingaans when beaten over 7 lengths by Hawwaam was proven wrong when he bounced back in style to win the Gauteng Guineas with near arrogance last time.
National Park had Hawwaam 2,70 lengths behind him there and much was made of Gavin Lerena’s ride. The former SA champion ride told the Stipes that that from a wide draw he intended to drop the Silvano colt out to obtain cover and to relax in the early stages in the hope that he would be able to sustain a strong finish.He advised that Hawwaam had commenced to over-race at the 1000m. In the straight he had improved into a narrow run at about the 300m but at no stage had he been impeded or had to stop riding. He expressed the view that the colt had managed to close his race off strongly and he had been satisfied with the horse’s performance. Over the 200m extra on Saturday, that must bode some concern for the National Park connections!
In the same race, Barahin, who was having his first start after a seven month break was ridden for improvement from Anton Marcus and made up many lengths to be beaten just over 2 lengths by his much fitter stablemate. Much fitter this time from a 1 draw, Barahin looks the horse with the most scope for dramatic improvement and must go very close. He is bred for the trip, too.
His Cape Derby winning stablemate Atyaab has won over the mile but is probably ideally looking for further and will be staying on. The son of Dundeel looks the likely pacesetter and will have the SA Derby as his main target.
The fourth of the De Kock quartet, Alyaasaat finished over 10 lengths back in the Guineas but may have needed the run as he had not seen action since the Graeme Beck Stakes back in in November 2018.
Sean Tarry and Lyle Hewitson team up with the Silvano colt Zillzaal who plodded from midfield when beaten 5,30 lengths by National Park in the Guineas. This lightly raced galloper looks likely to improve with experience and ground and could be a danger if things go his way.
The Dynasty gelding Owlinthetree bids to give trainer Geoff Woodruff his first success in this race since 2014 when subsequent Triple Crown star Louis The King flashed home to beat the ill-fated Mister Cricket and As You Like. The Maine Chance bred galloper followed up his December maiden success with a fair third in the Listed Sea Cottage Stakes, but then failed to fire when over 7 lengths behind National Park in the Guineas last time. He may be more effective over the 1800m as opposed to the mile and could place.
Candice Dawson’s Potala Palace colt Approach Control was reported not striding out when comprehensively beaten by over ten lengths in the Gauteng Guineas at his last start. He did win his maiden well at his second start but will need to up his game to challenge here.
Joey Soma produced shock subsequently exported 2018 winner Lobo’s Legend and saddles the Seventh Rock colt Roll Of Drums on Saturday. He looks well held on his earlier form and must rank an outside place chance at his very best.
So all told, the Gauteng Guineas form is the obvious yardstick to what happens on Saturday. That said the extra 200m and improved fitness – and even awareness – on the part of National Park’s opposition suggests things could get a lot closer. It should be a cracking race and a crossroads for more than one of the runners as they take their step up the ladder.