Quintessentially Quick

On Champions Day at Turffontein on Saturday! The Gr1 Computaform Sprint

What A Winter

What A Winter

It is probably ludicrous to suggest that one of our greatest sprinters of recent times has anything to prove on a racecourse, but his two previous attempts at this prestigious speed trophy have seen his colours lowered in a fashion that suggests he will be out for sweet revenge here.


Tilt The Scales

What A Winter’s first tilt at this event dates back to 2011, when as a three year old he was beaten some 1,25 lengths by the champion sprinting filly, Val de Ra, after famously hesitating at the jump.

Like a true champion, What A Winter returned in 2012 only to find the brilliant son of National Emblem, Shea Shea, in a devastating mood. Shea Shea ran his field off their feet and What A Winter held on gallantly for a well beaten third. We all saw what Shea Shea did on Dubai World Cup night.

In the year that has elapsed, What A Winter has had nine starts for five wins which have included scintillating victories in the Gr1 Mercury Sprint (where he will reportedly bow out in his swansong), the Gr2 Diadem Stakes and the Gr1 Cape Flying Championship.

He won his most recent start when cruising clear to win a Pinnacle Stakes over the Kenilworth 1000m in facile style, and thus comes to Turffontein a fit horse.



While What A Winter has most of this field beaten at the weights, he probably has most to fear from Duncan Howell’s fabulously fast daughter of Var, Via Africa.

Via Africa has won 5 of her 7 starts, and had an excellent prep run when cruising in to win the Listed KZN Stakes at Clairwood at the end of March. She was beaten 0,75 lengths in the Cape Flying Championship by What A Winter in receipt of 6 kgs and bumps the Cape star here with only a 4,5 kg advantage.

A lot will depend on how the individuals have travelled, and the Turffontein 1000m may well play into Via Africa’s favour if the going is on top.


Designs On Fame

Ormond Ferraris and Nooresh Juglall have developed a formidable combination and besides the strong likelihood of success in the Triple Tiara on the afternoon, have a strong claim for a further Gr1 scalp with the smart National Emblem gelding, Sharp Design .

The 4yo has won six of his nine starts and is an out and out 1000m specialist who just doesn’t know how to run a poor race. The Tommy Hotspur Handicap winner faces his biggest test on Saturday and the students of handicapping will probably give him no chance against the likes of What A Winter and Via Africa.

While mathematically up against it, Sharp Design has the home ground advantage in his favour. His style of running will mean that everybody will be off the bit from the jump and any chinks in their armour will be exposed.



Anton Marcus rides Welwitschia for Mike de Kock.

The UK bred daughter of Oasis Dream has been a revelation since the removal of blinkers and confinement to the sprints. She is 2,5 kgs better off with Sharp Design for a two length deficit for their last meeting over the course and distance.

Welwitschia’s single biggest obstacle is probably the fact that she tends to be slow away and takes time to get into top gear. Against the raw speed of her opposition, she may just arrive when the party is over.


Big Picture

Piere Strydom rides Valberg for Dominic Zaki and it is no secret that our top jockey once described this three year old son of Var as potentially one of the best horses he has ever ridden. A glance at the gelding’s form line hardly confirms Strydom’s very informed judgement and there is obviously a bigger picture here which would account for Valberg’s inconsistent performances.

If Valberg is over the exertions of his recent unsuccessful raid to KZN , he is very capable of running a place and one would like to believe that Strydom would’ve had the choice of other rides in this race.

The Gr2 Joburg Merchants winner Jackodore is a capable 4yo filly who has only had one run this year. She ran fourth over Saturday’s course and distance to Sharp Design and now meets the Ferraris gelding on 1,5 kgs better terms for a 2,75 length beating. She also easily holds Guantanamera on her Merchants win.

It must be of some concern as to whether Jackodore will strip sufficiently fit to take on the big guns on Saturday.


Two Ladies

Mike Azzie sends out two speedy females in Mannequin and the grey Var flyer, La Volta.

Mannequin is one of the very best sprinters of her generation and has won twelve races from her half century of racecourse appearances. Recently relocated from the Paul Matchett yard, she is very likely to need this run after her eighty eight day break from action.

La Volta is a winner of 7 of her 23 starts and while very talented, she is going to find herself a touch close at the weights to the likes of What A Winter and is probably just fast enough to burgle a minor place at best.

Jeff Freedman’s Mogok gelding, Guantanamera, is in under major sufferance and while game and consistent appears outclassed at this level.


Sing Along

Mark Dixon’s Golden Loom Handicap winner Showmetheway has a mountain to climb at the weights. While a five time winner from just eleven starts, he has his problems and would be a shock winner.

Another horse who has his problems but is extraordinarily talented is Kum Naidoo’s Royal Zulu Warrior who has been rested 74 days after running a disappointing fourth in the Tommy Hotspur Handicap under the Turffontein lights. He meets Sharp Design on 3,5 kgs better terms and has the blinkers fitted to sharpen him up.

His stable mate, the lightly raced Genuine Leather has only had three starts after making a winning debut at Turffontein just over a year ago.

After running a cracking second behind shock winner King’s Temptress in the SA Fillies last year, she turned to action at the middle of March and ran a superb second behind La Volta in the Bauhinia Handicap.

While she is in under sufferance, this is also a big ask against the sprinting top guns and this just seems like a bridge too far right now.


Speed Analysis

While it won’t take long, this could be the race of the day.

The early speed of Sharp Design and the beautiful Via Africa, versus the late burst of the likes of the champion What A Winter and the brilliant Welwitschia.

We can’t see much interference from elsewhere in the ranks of the opposition.

It’s a toss of the coin. But just don’t blink for this year Computaform Sprint.

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