The Justin Snaith-trained Cigar Boy looks a quietly progressive sort and he travels the Garden Route for an assault on Friday’s R125 000 Listed Racing Association Stakes at Fairview. The son of Casey Tibbs will not have things all his own way though.
There is no such thing as a free lunch in Port Elizabeth racing these days and Snaith makes the ten hour road trip from Cape Town in the knowledge that local leading yardmasters Gavin Smith and Alan Greef have no intention of being particularly hospitable or generous.
That despite the festive atmosphere that will no doubt prevail for day one of the East Cape Festival Of Racing double header this weekend.
Rave reviews have been received about the Fairview upgrades and renovations, and with the course in pristine condition at this fourth meeting after the break, a great day’s racing is in prospect.
The weights in the feature event certainly favour the likes of Champion Juvenile Stakes winner Sedge and recent Guineas Plate victor, Placido.
But Cigar Boy is still relatively unexposed, and his victory in an MR 72 Handicap over a mile in his hometown just a fortnight ago, suggested plenty to come.
Well supported in the betting, Sean Cormack, who encouragingly makes a rare trip down to the Eastern Cape this weekend, rode him that day and he drew off late to beat the older Winter Dynasty easing up by 1,25 lengths.
Cigar Boy’s maiden win has also worked out well, with the likes of subsequent winners Maltese Falcon, Western Movie and Tight Ship all well beaten, but now subsequent winners.
There is a sentimental angle worth noting too.
Cigar Boy is out of the top-class Devilish Ninja mare Naughty Princess, who was trained in Cape Town by Andries Steyn. She won five races, including very appropriately, the Breeders Guineas at this very venue over the mile twelve years ago. Interestingly she was ridden by Gavin Venter to that win and the ‘Stick Man’, as he is affectionately known, will be guiding punters in front of the Tellytrack cameras in the pre-race.
The handicapper would be surprised were Cigar Boy to get the better of the two locals, but it appears that he is yet to be stretched to anything near of what he may be capable of and has operated well below the radar so far. He looks a lot better than rated.
Justin Snaith also sends out the Jallad gelding Pole Star from the best draw. This fellow is Group race placed, but has battled to assert himself recently.
Easy Does It
Alan Greef’s Miesque’s Approval gelding Placido is a winner of 4 of his 10 starts and relished the step up to a mile when breezing through to win the Guineas Plate last time. Being out of a Badger Land mare, he will no doubt be even better over a touch further.
His main opponent here, Sedge, ran an unexplicably poor race in the Guineas Plate, finishing a disappointing fifth and 5,60 lengths behind after seemingly having every chance.
Also a four-time winner, Sedge was trying a mile for the first time and his free running style may well have caught him short when it counted most. He is out of a Rakeen mare, and while possessed of plenty of speed, there is no reason to believe he does not do the mile if ridden with more restraint.
His Guineas Plate run may also well have just been one of those off days we are all entitled to now and again.
Besides Placido, Greef also sends out the recent runaway winner, Way Clear, who is another who tries the mile for the first time.
Way Clear won a Novice Plate over 1200m unextended by 4.75 lengths last time beating some fair older horses. On previous form he is held by Sedge and Placido, but the Ashaawes progeny appear to stay on a bit, and he could enjoy the test.
Strike Twice is well-drawn and gets the blinkers for the first time. He is a course and distance winner, and looks the type that will go 2000m in time.
While another who appears held by the top two, he put in two fair post-maiden efforts with a second 1,25 lengths behind Sedge in the RA Stakes, and then a slightly one-paced fourth 4,60 lengths behind Placido in the Guineas Plate.
The Stronghold gelding Tealion only started his career in January, but has already clocked up some mileage with 14 runs on the board. He has won twice and is quite close to Sedge on his best form. His unsuccessful trip to Turffontein for the Ready To Run Cup three weeks ago would probably have taken the wind out of his sails, and he may have earned a short break.
Steven Janse Van Rensburg sends out a coupling of the Mellifont colt Bishop’s Choice and the recent maiden winner Devil’s Dollar, who recorded his first win against weak company over 1400m at Arlington in September.
Bishop’s Choice has won 2 of his 10 starts and his Novice Plate win over the Arlington mile three runs back was inspiring. As the only 3yo in the field, he beat the likes of Iron Grey, the once highly though of Paddock inmate Sunny Spain, and the consistent placer Dancinginthedesert.
The last mentioned bounced back next time out to beat Bishop’s Choice by a half length in a MR 73 Handicap over 200m shorter.
Bishop’s Choice is 2kgs better off with Sedge for a 3,90 length beating in the Guineas Plate and the blinkers are removed again.
Yvette Bremner’s Marry Me Mullins is the only filly in the race and she comes in with a handy 50kg galloping weight from a good draw. Her task nevertheless looks a tough one.
The maidens Tribal Party and Duke Of Destiny look like field fillers at first glance, although the latter did run on strongly in the Guineas Plate last time when beaten 3,25 lengths by Placido.
Duke Of Destiny is 2kgs better off now, but after 11 tries at winning a maiden, it is difficult to imagine him getting it right in this event.
While both Sedge and Placido are very capable 3yo’s, they are going to have to be at their best to hold the Cape Town visitor. And with the Snaith’s proven track record in Port Elizabeth, the practical hurdles of travel, well-being and familiarity are not likely to count against Cigar Boy.
So home ground advantage is effectively nullified and he becomes a serious runner.
As they say – close, but go Cigar!