Gr3 East Cape Derby, Arlington 2400m, on Sunday
With no standout horse and the top nine runners rated within nine pounds of each other by the handicappers, Sunday’s East Cape Derby over 2400m at Arlington looks to be a wide open affair. Add in the fact that eight of the 15 starters have never raced on this tricky course, mix in the extra ingredient that many of them are untested at the distance, and you have the recipe for something that has no shortage of ifs, buts, and maybes.
Vengence is the highest rated runner with a mark of 89 and with his proven stamina he makes obvious appeal, but he could be upstaged by his fellow Cape Town raider Lorenzo Marques. The latter has long given the impression of needing a test of stamina and was running on very strongly from a long way back on the turn when beaten less than half-a-length by Bluemambo over 1800m at Kenilworth last month. That was his third start back from the mandatory three month lay-off that resulted from him suffering a nosebleed when he won a Kenilworth 1800m maiden last November, and it is not hard to conclude that his trainer Justin Snaith has had this race in mind for Lorenzo Marques for some time. Out of a mare who won the SA Oaks, Lorenzo Marques looks to have plenty of stamina in his pedigree and can improve in leaps and bounds over what he has shown up to 2000m.
Collateral form gives Vengence – who is rated eight pounds superior to Lorenzo Marques anyway – a very good chance of denying the Snaith gelding. Joey Ramsden’s runner slammed Bluemambo by 3.5 lengths over 2800m at Kenilworth in March, and Bluemambo won subsequently beating Lorenzo Marques. Vengence can boast three wins and one second from four starts since he was tried with blinkers and represents the trainer/jockey combination who won this race in 2007 with Key Castle. There is obviously a lot to like about Vengence, but like Lorenzo Marques he will be racing around a right-handed course for the first time.
Lockheed has the distinct benefit of course experience and has won twice from four visits to Arlington. He was below par when a never dangerous 5.5 lengths fifth in the Listed East Cape Guineas over 1600m at Fairview last month, but may just need this sort of distance and ran on very well when winning over the Arlington 1800m in December. Lockheed also ran on extremely well when 1.5 lengths second behind favourably weighted Fragrant Al in a Listed event over 1400m the last time he was seen on this track, and Fragrant Al has won another Listed race at Kenilworth since. Lockheed looks like the best of the home-trained contingent and is one for the shortlist.
Ecclesiastic was making his local debut after being acquired by current connections at a mixed sale in February when he ran on well after being in touch throughout and beat West island by a neck over 2000m at Fairview in April. He was returning from a 17 week lay-off and could easily have come on from that run. He ran on very stoutly when he beat a couple of subsequent winners in a Greyville 1900m maiden second time out and is essentially an unexposed sort who would be causing no surprises if he proved good enough to win a race of this nature.
Riding plans suggest that Vengence is preferred to stable companion West Island, but the latter is consistent and also gets the Derby distance well. He led briefly in the straight before going close behind Ecclesiastic over 2000m, and surely can do better than when only seventh behind Vengence over 2800m at his penultimate start. He has done well with frontrunning tactics, which could make him the ideal sort for Arlington, and his rider Wayne Agrella is very good at keeping horses going once they’re on the lead.
Eton Mess was most disappointing when he raced at the tail of the field throughout and was beaten 15.75 lengths behind Ecclesiastic, particularly as that race was run on the Fairview course where Eton Mess has achieved his best results. He can do better and was running on from a mile back when fifth in a very moderate 2000m handicap at Arlington in March. That suggests he may enjoy the step up to 2400m, but he has not looked comfortable in his two previous outings on this course and, together with his woeful last effort, that doesn’t make Eton Mess easy to like as a probable winner. Stable companion Dancinginthedesert seems to prefer Arlington, on the other hand, and was running on very strongly from a hopeless position when 1.25 lengths third behind Savanah Park in a novice plate over 1600m here in April. He isn’t sure to stay this far, though, and he looks to be outclassed as he faces Lockheed on 5 kgs worse terms than when he finished half-a-length behind that rival in the 1400m event won by Fragrant Al.
Catview has consistent form and finished a respectable 2.25 lengths fourth in the East Cape Guineas last time out. He finished more than three lengths ahead of stable companion Lockheed there, but overall form suggests that Lockheed must be better than that. On pedigree there must be some doubt as to whether Catview will stay this distance, having only been tried up to 1800m, but it is worth noting that his half brother Chou Choo Wooga has won over 2400m despite being by predominantly speed sire Lecture. It is therefore not inconceivable that Catview (a son of Mogok) will get the Derby trip, and in that case he would have some sort of a chance.
Desert Rat came from well off the pace when he shook off Great Kali by almost half-a-length in a very ordinary Kenilworth 1600m handicap last month. He stayed on when finishing third over 1800m at his penultimate start and seems best when held up off the early pace, having weakened after racing handy when finishing last of ten over 2000m in February. Even so there is a considerable question mark over his stamina, and he doesn’t appeal being quite good enough to win even on best form. Stable companion Zezinho Campeao could be improving and won more easily than the three-quarters of a length margin suggests when he beat Royal Bloodline in the maidens over 1800m at Kenilworth a month ago, but an unplaced effort from Royal Bloodline next time out does the form no credit. The step up to 2400m may bring out improvement, but on form to date Zezinho Campeao appears to be out of his depth.
Campo De Santana
Campo De Santana makes the trek down from Gauteng and would have his chances improved if the going comes up at least a bit on the soft side. He was probably out of his depth when beaten 29 lengths in the Gr 2 Gold Bowl over 3200m at Turffontein a fortnight ago, but ran on well when scoring over 2600m on the Turffontein inner course at his penultimate start. Corne Spies’ gelding is the joint second highest rated horse in the line-up, but there may in fact not be much between him and Masterpiece despite the eleven pound difference in their merit ratings. Masterpiece may not have enjoyed the very wet ground when beaten 17 lengths behind Campo De Santana at his penultimate start and subsequently finished only half-a-length adrift of the Spies gelding when they respectively finished second and third in a race won by Ilsanpietro over 3000m. They meet on the same weight terms here and Masterpiece can be given a roughly similar chance to Campo De Santana, handicap marks notwithstanding. Whether either of them will prove good enough is another matter, though, for Campo De Santana’s current MR may in reality flatter him a little.
Exultation hadn’t raced for 10 weeks and almost certainly found 1600m too sharp in Listed class when finishing last of ten in the East Cape Guineas. He may improve, but he appeared to be leniently handicapped when comfortably winning two minor contests over 2000m and 1800m in January. He could relish going 2400m for the first time, but he surely needs to improve on his exposed form to win this at level weights. Golden Ruse made no show in an ordinary 2000m handicap when racing at Arlington for the first time in April and is held safe also on his 4.25 lengths defeat behind Ecclesiastic two starts ago. Odyssey Of Light has yet to win a race, but he stays well and isn’t necessarily the most forlorn prospect here if he is judged on what he showed when running on to finish 1.75 lengths third behind Ecclesiastic over 2000m in April. Even so others do make much greater appeal.
About The Pace
There are not many obvious frontrunners in the line-up and the Derby may well be run at an ordinary pace. West Island is one that can get a move on early, though, and hopefully will ensure that they don’t dawdle and turn what may prove to be the last ever Derby at Arlington into a farce. Ecclesiastic and Exultation can race quite handy, as can Masterpiece, but a record breaking Derby looks extremely unlikely. Be that as it may, Lorenzo Marques can improve considerably going 2400m for the first time and is a far from confident selection to win at the expense of Vengence, Lockheed, Ecclesiastic, and West Island.