Carve The Turkey

Gr3 Christmas Handicap

Slumdogmillionaire

Movie Star! SA Classic winner Slumdogmillionaire returns to action at Clairwood on Wednesday and should finish in the top three

With his chief target the J&B Met, top KwaZulu-Natal trainer Gavin Van Zyl expressed quiet optimism of a top-three finish for his SA Classic winner Slumdogmillionaire in Wednesday’s R200 000 Gr3 Christmas Handicap to be run over 1600m at Clairwood.

The son of Strike Smartly, who is a winner of 3 of his 4  career starts, the last being a terrific victory  in the Gr1 SA Classic at the end of March over subsequent Vodacom Durban July winner Pomodoro, adds plenty of hype and interest to the bumper Boxing Day ten-race programme.

The presence of a boom horse with a big name and reputation to match is bound to attract a sizeable holiday crowd to the Garden Course after the indulgences of Christmas.

Gallop

Interviewed as we went to print, trainer Gavin Van Zyl said that his charge had put up a good gallop (the betting coup was subsequently landed with his galloping companion Lion’s Print) on the grass a fortnight ago and while he had no doubt that Slumdogmillionaire would need the outing, the mile would also be on the short side for him.

Van Zyl, a top jockey who has made a highly successful transition to the training ranks, qualified his professional caution by suggesting that Slumdogmillionaire  ‘would not disgrace himself.’

The biggest danger to a dream return to action for the Strike Smartly topweight would appear to lie at the hooves of his stablemate, the 6yo Bulsara, who ran an eyecatching second to the capable Northern Emperor at his last start.

The 2011 Gr3 London News Stakes winner finished with a rattle to get within two lengths of  Northern Emperor in a 1450 m Conditions Plate, and he should be a lot happier over the mile.

Bulsara showed his class  with a smart third to Tales Of Bravery in the Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes in May, but consistency has never been one of his endearing assets.

No Secret

The Mike Bass-trained Captain’s Secret is probably best regarded as a sprinter, despite his Gr3 Cape Classic win in 2010 over the Kenilworth 1400m.

The son of Captain Al is now 6 years old, poorly drawn and has not won in two years. He looks unlikely to initiate a revival at this stage.

The 6yo Bay Route is a solid miler on his day, and has drawn against the paint.

A six-time winner, the gelding had a rather bizarre return to action after a five month rest when running seventh behind Jackodore in the Joburg Merchants on 1 December. That was way short of his best and he is bound to come along leaps and bounds with the run.

He ran third in this race last year behind Orbit War, and could prove to be the dark horse of the race.

Always Al

Consistent! Sean Tarry’s consistent Always Al could suprise over the mile if ridden quietly

Always A Factor

Sean Tarry’s consistent Al Mufti gelding Always Al won a hard-fought race under the top-class Kevin Shea at his last start when getting the better of a protracted duel with the Mike De Kock-trained Hard Rock in an MR 95 Divided Handicap over the Clairwood 1450m.

Always Al is yet to win beyond 1450m, but has some close-up placed efforts to the likes of big names like Mujaarib and Pessoa to his credit, and will jump a very fit horse.

Weight considerations no doubt led to the engagement of jockey Corne Orffer, and a lot will depend on the way Always Al is ridden.

Adam Kethro’s Orbit War was a shock winner of this race last year, and followed up with an equally surprising win in the Listed Michael Roberts Handicap three weeks later.

His ensuing eight runs have only dished up one rather ordinary second place over the course and distance in an MR 91 Handicap. A glance over his career shows a tendency to

Good Form

Greg and Karen Anthony’s Maluti is a multiple course and distance winner, who  is in the form of his life at the moment. That said he is under sufferance here and should battle against the classier performers.

Michael Roberts sends out a coupling of Durban Merchants winner Mike’s Choice and the staying sort, Badge Of Choice.

Mike’s Choice is another horse more widely thought to be a sprinter, but he has won twice at 1400m and been placed over a mile. On breeding and his style of racing, one would imagine that he could be competitive here if settling early, under an experienced rider like Stuart Randolph.

Mike’s Choice is a definite place contender.

Badge Of Choice is another runner under sufferance and he would more than likely prefer a bit further as all of his wins have been achieved from 1950 to 2000 m.

Jeff Freedman’s Silver Age beat Orbit War by a length at his last start in very soft going over the course and distance, but is 1,5kgs worse off here. While a lightly weighted winner of 3 of his 10 starts, he looks a little outclassed here and will have to do more.

Mike's Choice

Miler? Recognised sprinter Mike’s Choice steps up to a mile and could challenge for the places

Starting Point

This race presents the Slumdog connections with a seemingly perfect re-introduction to racing.

With the short-term target of a tilt at the J&B Met his main priority, Van Zyl will not have the colt at his peak. But if he has any serious Met aspirations, then they no doubt would like to see him running on and finishing his race over a distance short of his best.

Stablemate Bulsara will be a comforting Pick 6 back-up, while the very fit Always Al and the classy Mike’s Choice could provide further opposition.

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