Beyond the Cape Summer Speed star Kasimir, recent form is not an overriding feature of this evening’s R400 000 Gr2 Post Merchants line-up.
With the Snaith-Fourie machine in red-hot health, are we complicating matters by looking too deep into what lies beyond?
The race is weighted on merit bands, with the MR 117 rated Kasimir, a revelation at home last summer, coming in on top weight of 62kgs.
The son of Captain Al has hardly put a foot wrong this season, making it a clean sweep of the Cape Summer Sprint features. His last win – and most recent run – was all of 15 weeks ago, when scoring a gutsy victory over Speedpoint in the Diadem. While match fitness and his wide draw are concerns, the Snaith team showed again on Saturday that they can win Gr1’s after a break – Do It Again winning the Gold Challenge in cavalier style – and Gr2’s from a wide draw – with the classy Oh Susanna, powering home to win the Gr2 Tibouchina Stakes from an 11 gate. But Friday evening is a whole new ball game, and the lights and the 1200m dash around the Greyville turn, could make it fun and games.
There are two past winners in the race, to add to the puzzle.
The defending champion Sniper Shot, who beat Black Cat Back from a 9 draw in last year’s thirteen strong field, has not won in the ensuing twelve months. The Paul Lafferty trained 4yo was outpointed in the Drill Hall Stakes and never showed in the Tsogo Sun Sprint.
Brett Crawford’s Search Party beat Talktothestars in 2016, when winning from a 6 from 14 draw. He subsequently ran a smart second behind Bull Valley in the Mercury Sprint a month later. He has to contend with a wide gate on Friday evening, but did not run the worst of races when under two lengths off stablemate Pacific Trader in the Computaform Sprint and then showing pace when under three lengths behind Chimichuri Run in the Tsogo Sun Sprint.
His younger stablemate Bold Respect, who gets the ear muffs, maybe the preferred choice with a better draw and a superior effort under the belt when 1,45 lengths off Chimichuri Run in the Scottsville Gr1. He is also 2kgs better off with Kasimir for at best a 2,30 length beating in the Diadem.
Third of the Crawford trio, Sunset Eyes is another with a wide draw to overcome. The 5yo has not won in some time and is held by Bold Respect on their last meeting.
The fairer sex do not have a dominant record in this race – the last filly title holder being Justin Snaith’s Varikate – who won it back in 2014. There are three fillies in Friday evening’s renewal – headed by the lightly raced, well drawn and very capable La Bella Mia.
The daughter of Gimmethegreenlight has proven her capabilities in mixed company but was beaten 7 lengths by Schippers in the Camellia at her last start. She could be dangerous with the 51,5kgs on her back.
Dual stakes winner Green Plains represents another top trainer-jockey combination in Sean Tarry and Lyle Hewitson. She was beaten over 7 lengths by her stablemate Celtic Sea in the SA Fillies Sprint last time.
A winner of his last start, Wynkelder carries 2kgs more this year after catching the eye with a nice running on third behind Sniper Shot last year. The 5yo is a must include on his best form and could surprise.
The slightly disappointing Rivarine gets the blinkers removed and from a decent 4 gate must have a chance on his best showings. He disappointed when putting in no kind of effort and beaten into twelfth and 4.50 lengths off Pacific Trader in the Computaform Sprint.
Trainer Dennis Drier was very disappointed that his former Gr1 winner Sand And Sea did not get a run in the Gr1 Tsogo Sun Sprint, where he saw him as being well weighted for a big bid. The son of Twice Over has an awful draw to contend with here but is said to be over his health problems and capable of a big run. Watch this possible value bet!
Last of the trio of fillies, Alec Laird’s Pretty Penny carries a postage stamp 50kgs and again showed superb pace when beaten into fourth behind Schippers in the Camellia last time. A nippy sort, she has her first try at Greyville and could be dangerous if allowed to get away from the pack.
The former Cape then PE-based Quinlan enjoyed an excellent prep run when just shaded under 62kgs on the polytrack last Saturday by the lightning fast, Chantyman. Quinlan’s booming late run fourth in the Gr1 Computaform Sprint – when only beaten 1,30 lengths by Pacific Spirit – brings him into the picture, despite a wide gate.
Shane Humby’s Tribal Fusion blotted his impressive copybook of genuine consistency when stepping into Gr1 company last time. Finding early pace and then fading to three lengths off Chimichuri Run in the Tsogo Sun Sprint. He is a multiple course and distance winner who could be worth including in quartets.
History shows that the Merchants is a race that is capable of dishing up an upset result.
It’s difficult to think beyond the Snaith-Fourie powerhouse, but the draws and luck in running could play a notable part in the outcome. Kasimir is the choice though to hold La Bella Mia and Bold Respect. Sand And Sea and Wynkelder could offer some value.