The sensational speed stallion Var appropriately dominates Saturday’s R200 000 Gr2 Tony Taberer Southern Cross Stakes run over the Kenilworth 1000m. The race named in honour of the late Avontuur supremo has attracted a field of eleven top speedsters, and four of them were sired by the farm’s flagbearer.
Even though he produced the runner-up in the 2012 Ladbroke’s Gold Cup, South Africa’s premier staying event, it is not at all unusual to see Var dominating these fast fixtures and he has four representatives, including the outstanding KwaZulu-Natal visitor, Via Africa.
But it is Mike De Kock’s top English-bred sprinting mare Welwitschia who stands out as a handicapping good thing at the weights.
The daughter of Oasis Dream has proven that sprinting is her forte and she ran a cracker in the Listed Golden Loom at Turffontein last time out when failing by a half length to get to the vastly improved KZN raider Showmetheway.
Welwitschia was giving the gelding all of ten kgs and the effort may be regarded as an excellent one in the circumstances. She also dished out a 3,50 length walloping, when conceding 2,5kgs, to the prolific twelve-time winning superfast Mannequin in the same race.
The race should provide an interesting tactical battle as Wewitschia enjoys running at them late and her rider Anthony Delpech will have to keep a beady eye on the very smart 3yo Via Africa.
The daughter of Var has been spoken about as the new generation Val De Ra and has won her last three starts by an astonishing combined twenty-two lengths!
A winner of 3 of her 4 career starts, all over 1000m, Duncan Howells’ charge arrives in Cape Town with a huge reputation and an impressive record to match. She faces her first big test and her trainer would have done the Cape Town raid scenario many times during his tenure as assistant to David Payne in years gone by.
Dennis Drier’s outstanding Australian-bred sprinter Torra Bay is a lightly-raced 5yo who made a smashing winning Cape debut three weeks ago. She beat the very capable Hammie’s Hooker by 1,30 lengths in that Allowance Plate and also has Miss October cold on that run.
It was Torra Bay’s first run in five months, and she is bound to have come on nicely.
Her stablemate Miss October will be ridden by MJ Byleveld – who one imagines could have ridden Valdivia. Jockeys are not the best judges, so we won’t be too influenced by that observation.
Miss October was slow away last time when getting tired late to finish 3,55 lengths off Torra Bay. She is now 2,5 kgs worse off and looks unlikely.
Justin Snaith has four runners in the race, including the unbeaten Trippi filly, Agra.
A facile winner of her only two starts, she returned after a ten month break three weeks ago and was obviously way above herself when bolting the course.
That is hardly an ideal prep run and her fitness will have to be taken on trust. It is probably worth noting that her trainer was rather cautious in assessing her prospects that afternoon. We cannot fancy her here based on that.
Snaith also sends out the very smart Count Dubois 4yo Comtesse Dubois, who showed nice improvement last time when staying on for second in the Diana Stakes.
Her penultimate run, when a one-paced fourth in the Champagne Stakes suggests that she may be wanting more ground as she gets older, but it would be foolish to discount the chances of the Laisserfaire Stakes winner.
Both of the remaining Snaith runners face their first serious tests of ability.
Victorian Secret and Varikate are both two-time winners but are in under sufferance here and have not yet shown that they are capable of pacing it with the likes of Welwitschia and Torra Bay.
Brett Crawford’s yard appears to have turned the corner recently and the Phillippi trainer sends out the very capable and consistent Reflective Image.
The Olympic Duel Stakes winner returned from a six month break when going down a length to Torra Bay last time and appears held. Although it stands to reason that she will be a fitter filly on Saturday.
Vaughan Marshall’s Strelitzia winner Valdivia returns to what is surely her optimum trip after a fair third to Super Elegant in the 1400m Diana Stakes in October.
Lest we forget the fact that she won her first three starts by sixteen lengths and is a seriously fast filly when on song.
It is Avontuur’s big day and the scriptwriters would probably choose a victory for Pippa Mickleburgh’s favourite son Var . We don’t see that plot being too far -fetched and we are siding with Via Africa to win this race and continue her climb up the ladder.
The one concern is that her Asburton home base is a long road away.Valdivia remains a solid player in a supporting role, should things not go Via Africa’s way.
The Drier- trained Torra Bay as well as Mike De Kock’s Welwitschia could be the big bad wolves in the Var fairytale. Both are very capable, high-class individuals.
It should be a great race.
There is plenty of pace and ability across the board and also check the wind direction too, just to be on the safe side.