Fulfilling Promise

Gr2 Tibouchina Stakes

Covenant won the Gr1 Majorca Stakes during the Cape season.

Gr2 Tibouchina Stakes over 1450m at Clairwood on Monday

Some top fillies have won this weight for age contest in recent years, most notably Ilha Da Vitoria in 2005. She went on to win both the Summer Cup and Gommagomma Challenge. Globetrotter Mike De Kock has saddled the winner in three of the last six runnings of the Tibouchina and Headstrong, his sole representative here, is the highest rated runner in the field, writes Steve Furnish.

Equally at home on both Turf and sand, this daughter of Pivotal has silently progressed very nicely, winning nine of her twenty starts. Her three runs at this circuit have all been over 1200m and interestingly, she has won two of them. Those wins include her success in the Gr3 Poinsettia Stakes in her penultimate start and having run what looks to be our champion sprint filly this season Val De Ra to just three quarters of a length in the Gr1 Fillies Sprint at Scottsville last time out, she is clearly at the top of her game. Indeed, Headstrong is undoubtedly still improving and with three successes to her name over 1450m on sand, as well as two over 1400 on turf, she has to be a very serious runner here.

Give Me Five

A winner of the Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship back in the 2009, Sean Tarry’s charge is yet to win in five starts beyond sprint distances. She has been keeping very good company in her outings around today’s distance though and has twice chased home the very talented Dancewiththedevil. She battled to find her form earlier in the season, but since reverting to sprint distances in March, she has come to hand nicely. She ran on particularly well when landing the Gr2 Camellia Stakes over 1160m at Turffontein in her penultimate start and she was also finishing strongly when only 3,4 lengths off Val De Ra in the Fillies Sprint last time out. Give Me Five is sure to be doing her best work late, but setting off from the widest draw, she has no easy task.

Autumn Gold

The Western Winter mare Autumn Gold was at the top of her game at this stage of the season last year and finishing best of all, was only beaten three quarters of a length by the talented Gibraltar Blue in this race. Since picking up a conditions event in her next start though, she has now gone thirteen outings without a win. She would seem unlikely here on that, but trainer Sean Tarry does have a knack of getting his charges at their peak for the big day, as we saw with Vertical Takeoff just last week.

Happy Archer

Making up the trio of runners from the stable of Sean Tarry is the 3yo Happy Archer. This daughter of Dubawi won three in a row at the end of last season and wound up a tremendous first campaign with victory in the prestigious Gr1 Thekwini Stakes over 1600m. She battled to find her form after running a fair second on her return from a four month break in November, but did then shows signs of coming to hand when picking up a progress event over today’s distance at Turffontein in April. She would be thereabouts if at her very best, but she was comfortably beaten after holding every chance in the Guineas last time out, and on current form won’t find this easy.

Imperious Star

Imperious Star progressed very nicely during the course of last season and after winning the prestigious Gr1 Woolavington she was later only picked off in the closing stages by the aptly named Here To Win in the Gr1 Garden Province Stakes. Her preparation was interrupted due to a blood disorder after a break during the Cape season and she did then battle to find her best form. She returns from another four month layoff here and although she has won over today’s trip earlier in her career, she would ideally prefer further now and is perhaps best just watched here.

Wings Over Skye

As well as Imperious Star, trainer Glen Kotzen is also represented by the 4yo Wings Over Skye. A gutsy frontrunner, this Jet Master filly has won two of her last three starts and was only picked off very late by Lady Magpie in the other. She does now face Lady Magpie on 5,5kg worse terms here though and more accustomed to racing over further, she clearly has her work cut out.

Croc Valley

One of three runners in the race sired by Western Winter, Croc Valley showed considerable improvement during the recent Cape season, and when winning the listed Jamaica Handicap in January, she completed a very smart hattrick. She was given a break after finishing fourth in the Gr3 Prix Du Cap in her next start, but did then show her well being when a running on second to Wings Over Skye on her arrival in Natal last month. On paper, she has a bit to find with the best here, but she does go well around today’s distance and if able to build on that Cape season improvement, she should be thereabouts.


The best of Mike Bass’ two runners on the day though must surely be the up and coming Covenant. She was thought to be more of a sprinter earlier in her career, but after running on strongly to win the Gr2 Sceptre Stakes over 1200m in January she was then tried over a mile and in winning the prestigious Gr1 Majorca Stakes she showed her class. She was running on nicely over the final 300m of the Fillies Sprint on her arrival in Natal and although Headstrong (whom she meets here on identical terms) was a length and three quarters ahead of her in that event, she was finishing at least as well. The long run in at this circuit looks sure to suit Covenant and although she doesn’t have the best of the draw, I expect her to fight it out.

Lady Magpie

Alistair Gordon’s charge commands a fair turn of foot and after a frustrating sequence of placed runs it was no surprise to see her win three in a row. Those latest three successes were all gained over a minimum of 1600m and she is probably at her very best over further than today’s trip. She is yet to miss the frame in four starts over 1400m, but all in all she does look to have a very stiff task at today’s weights.

Fragrant Al

With the gutsy Fragrant Al at her best from the front and the vastly experienced Felix Coetzee never easy to pass, it is not surprising that they have built up a very useful partnership. Indeed, they have won two from three since Felix jumped back into the saddle and she did have excuses, having gotten her tongue over the bit, when in between those two successes she was only beaten 1,4 lengths by Covenant at levels in the listed Sweet Chestnut Stakes over 1400m at Kenilworth in April. A runner up to the subsequent UAE Fillies Guineas winner Mahbooba in the Gr1 Golden Slipper over this course and distance last July, Fragrant Al has a very nice draw here, and sure to be right there when the race begins in earnest, she will take some pegging back.

In Like Flynn

A daughter of National Assembly, Joey Ramsden’s charge steadily progressed very nicely during the Cape Season and having won twice over 1400m will be clearly be at home over today’s trip. She returns from a three month break here and at the weights has no easy task. She does run on nicely on her day though and she has performed well in graded company. She will be thereabouts if ready.

Sting Operation

The dark horse of the race is the Charles Laird trained Sting Operation. She’s clearly not the soundest of characters having already broken a bloodvessel and been reported as not striding out once in just five starts. She has nonetheless shown flashes of real ability though. Indeed, on the day that she was reported as not striding out she won the listed Swallow Stakes at Turffontein. She is held on her latest two outings behind Give Me Five, but she does go beyond sprint distances for the first time here and the manner in which she won her first three starts would suggest that we haven’t seen the best of her yet.

About The Pace

With a number candidates for the role of front runner amongst the twelve going to post, a true pace looks assured. Fragrant Al is sure to be right there when push comes to shove and she certainly won’t be stopping. Headstrong and Covenant are the two most likely to fight it out with her and my preference is for the latter.

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