A Big Day For Restless Knights

No Mike Bass. That is the slight anomaly of the R1 million Cape Premier Yearling Sale Guineas which heads a mouthwatering feature bill at Kenilworth this Saturday. Bass just doesn’t do the Guineas thing it seems, so that is not too unusual, but he is the only power player missing from the domineering Cape Big Five dominance of the prestigious Group 1 feature. The result of this fascinating contest will certainly have a major impact on the picture at the top of the table.

A sleepless Friday night and a Sizzling Saturday beckons. The Guineas is developing into a bumper day for Glen Kotzen and Dean Kannemeyer, in particular. Kotzen makes a right royal stand with his dynamic champion filly Princess Victoria entering the first real lion’s den of her short career, while Kannemeyer looks to bank the expectations and promise of what on paper appears to be his best three year old crop in years. Throw in the unfazed nattily dressed professional Joey Ramsden and the youthful enthusiasm of Justin Snaith, who probably only wants to know about one Australian-bred horse, and we have the script and real-life characters for a thriller and an episode of Survivor- Sizzling Summer Style.

It is Classic races like the Guineas that separate the men from the boys and open doors to biographies, new opportunities and our imaginary halls of fame. There is no question that all of the mentioned men can train racehorses, entertain clients and are marketers in their own right and unique way. Some are eternal optimists, others more pessimistic. Some love to hype horses –others downplay ability. Certain of them love the limelight – others shun the media. Together they make up the competitive tapestry of the great side of the game of racing – just as Terrance Millard, Peter Kannemeyer and Theo De Klerk did in the halcyon days of the seventies and eighties.

Oh, and let me not forget about the big friendly giant, Mike De Kock. The world champion sends Dingaans winner Silver Flyer down from the North and has even poached Joey’s regular stable rider, Glen Hatt. That is my own bit of poetic licence and needle- I am sure that Hatt has Ramsden’s blessing and not that the Englishman is complaining – he retains Anton Marcus on the valiant Var, Variety Club.

The Cape Champion Trainer title is a long way from being decided and there is plenty of water yet to pass under the bridge, but with the statistics so evenly poised, the top five position will be shuffled dramatically on Saturday afternoon at around 16h25 with just R900 000 odd separating the high-riding Mike Bass from Glen Kotzen in fifth position.

Bass heads the log on R2 440 000 and 38 winners, marginally ahead of the buoyant feature race giant-killer Joey Ramsden on R2 364 000 and 29 winners. Justin Snaith is R300 000 behind Ramsden in third place with 32 winners, while the Classic Kid Dean Kannemeyer is cantering in fourth with 29 winners and R1 662 000 in stakes. Glen Kotzen, who arguably adds the real flavour and interest with Princess Victoria bidding to burst the boys’ bubble, is in fifth spot with 13 winners and R1 514 000 in stakes.

While the Jooste owned Selangor Cup winner Variety Club is obviously his first string in the hands of SA Champion Jockey Anton Marcus, Joey Ramsden has engaged Gerrit Schlechter on Master Mascus, his big-race lucky charm Raymond Danielson, who dramatically toppled Pocket Power in the Gr1 Champions Cup in 2009 when riding Ivory Trail, for Silver Haven and Grant Behr for The Balladeer.

Glen Kotzen has certainly put his proverbial on the block by running the brilliant Princess Victoria against the boys here just a few weeks after Trinity House briefly rattled her throne in the fillies’ equivalent. If she wins it, Glen will be the hero. If she doesn’t, it really won’t be the end of the Woodhill world by any means, but then the usual post-race merchant recriminations will be doing the rounds on ABC and in the media. This race would have come too soon for her and her trainer would have made a rare error of big race judgement. The girls do not really have a great record in the race and if the Victory Moon filly wins it, she will be the first since 1992.

Tollie Novick’s brilliant Esplendor filly Star Effort is the only lady to have achieved the girl-boy Guineas double in recent times when she won the Fillies Guineas on 5 January 1991 and then went in just under a month later to beat King Kama in the Guineas on 2 February at Milnerton. The brilliant galloper picked up cheques of R96 000 and R300 000 respectively for winning those two features. Twenty years later, the relative sums don’t look too good do they, although the fillies seem to have been somewhat better catered for with their incentive 400% up as opposed to the approximately 100% of the colts.

Star Effort was also something of a freak though as she then traveled to Natal to win the SA Fillies Guineas three months later, before winning the SA 2000 the very next month. The galloping goldmine Empress Club gave the fillies race a skip the very next year but went and grabbed the first cheque in the Topsport Bloodline Guineas in February. She was also something rather freaky as she too went up to Natal and won both the SA Guineas and the SA Fillies Guineas, run within two weeks of each other in May of that great year.

Is Princess Victoria anything near a Star Effort or Empress Club? Saturday will certainly fill in a lot of missing pieces of this particular puzzle and Georgina Jaffee, in whose famous family silks the Princess runs, is old enough to remember how much pleasure Empress Club gave her legendary Dad. Princess Victoria, who goes for a fourth Group 1 win and seventh win on the trot, owes her connections absolutely nothing and, while we know all girls are different, based on both Star Effort and Empress Club feats, Kotzen can hardly be criticized for running her again ‘so soon.’

Dean Kannemeyer has won six of the last eight Guineas, so he could arguably be the man to follow. The media, including yours truly, have pumped this year’s DKR bunch to be the best he has had in years, and now the call needs to be answered. He sends out a three-way coupling in Divine Jet, Liancourt Rock and Depardieu. Unbeaten but badly drawn at 13, riding arrangements would appear to indicate that Lady Laidlaw’s Divine Jet is the pick of the trio. But even wise old owls get it wrong at times, and Karl Neisius must have tossed and turned over this call. Laidlaw’s present Gary Player Stud-based stallion Noordhoek Flyer won the race for Neisius in 2009.

The other two Kannemeyer candidates both run for big name owners. After the heady years when they raced the likes of Dynasty and Eyeofthetiger, Fieldspring Racing have endured a lean and quiet few years but Liancourt Rock has every chance of turning that around for them. Bernard Kantor’s new yellow silks appear to have changed his luck and Depardieu’s win would be a big one for his sire, Dupont.

Hassen Adams owns the Snaith horse Gimmethegreenlight and it has not been a vintage season for the silver and royal blue hoped silks. After the retirement of their Met winner Past Master, they will be looking for another big horse to step into the fray. The son of More Than Ready will be looking to discard his bridesmaid tag and put the Adams show back on the road. After Solo Traveller’s dramatic win last year, it will also be a welcome double for the Snaiths.

Great horses, brilliant trainers and colourful characters and legends aplenty. De Kock, Kannemeyer, Ramsden, Snaith, Var, Kantor, Jet Master, Fieldspring Racing, Neisius, Marcus, Kotzen. Or a new galloping goldmine?

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