It’s a bit of an early Christmas on Saturday at venerable Turffontein, which plays host to a sumptuous feast of stakes events topped by the headliner, the R5-million Gr1 Betway Summer Cup.
This year’s renewal raises a number of intriguing questions.
Can Puerto Manzano make it back-to-back victories from a wide draw?
On recent form, the Argentinian-bred appears to set the standard for his 19 rivals at this, his favourite racetrack, where he warmed up for the 2000m race with a defeat of fellow Cup contender Cousin Casey in the Gr2 Allied Steelrode-Onamission Charity Mile.
Third place went to Gimmethegreenlight filly Bless My Stars, who also rates amongst the fancied runners for Saturday’s showpiece race.
Members of the fairer sex have been no strangers to Summer Cup success since the start of the new millennium.
In 2005, Mary Slack’s champion grey Ilha Da Vittoria claimed the honours with a sublime performance which saw her hack up by an imperious five lengths. It was a sweet victory for the Mike de Kock-trained mare, as she had finished third to Tyson the previous year.
She went on to defeat the champion Beck-owned mare Overarching in the Gr1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut before handing champion Jamaica an almost three-length drubbing in the Gr2 Gommagomma Challenge.
Runner-up in both the Gr1 J&B Met and the Gr1 Paddock Stakes, she ended her five-year-old season as the country’s Joint Horse of the Year, sharing honours with another grey, the lightning-fast filly National Colour.
De Kock reinforced his standing as the undisputed Cup King when he won the 2010 renewal for the eighth time with the filly Flirtation.
In an all-female finish, the daughter of Silvano ran down stable companion Mother Russia to score going away in what was by far the biggest pay day of her career.
St John Gray’s champion Dancewiththedevil continued the female stranglehold when she stormed to victory twelve months later under Gavin Lerena. A champion miler, her form over 1600m was beyond reproach and there were many who doubted her ability over the extra quarter mile.
Needless to say, she comprehensively silenced her critics and made light work of the 2000m trip with a breathtaking last-to-first victory.
Nine years went by before another distaffer stepped into the winner’s box, and it could not have been a more worthy winner.
Champion Three-year-old Filly and Horse of the Year Summer Pudding backed up against the boys with an unblemished eight-race streak in tow, which included the Triple Tiara and the Gr1 Woolavington Stakes.
Trained by Paul Peter, this fourth-generation Mauritzfontein homebred proved invincible and made it nine wins on the trot with a resounding 2.50 length victory.
The result proved yet another triumph for members of the fairer sex, for she was followed home by the year-older filly Running Brave.
It was also a back-to-back success for Silvano, who had sired the previous year’s winner Zillzaal. In fact, it was the former Maine Chance powerhouse’s second Summer Cup double, as Flirtation’s victory came twelve months after Sean Tarry’s future champion Aslan had prevailed under Felix Coetzee.
Although Summer Pudding subsequently lost her unbeaten record in the Gr1 Paddock Stakes, she redeemed herself in the Gr2 Colorado King and Gr1 HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes.
That was her second top level success of the season and fourth overall, which earned her an Equus award as Champion Older Filly/Mare. Summer Pudding is now roaming the hallowed Mauritzfontein paddocks with her first foal, a Rafeef filly at her side.
As the sire of a quartet of winners, Silvano’s impact on the Summer Cup has been profound and there is every chance that he may extend his influence on the race in the sphere of broodmare sire.
He is after all the damsire of Bless My Stars, who will bid to become the fifth female winner this coming weekend.
A strong case can be made for last season’s champion three-year-old filly, as she brings into the race an enviable form line.
A Gr1 winner of the SA Fillies Classic, she made heads turn with an excellent third in the Gr1 Hollywoodbets Durban July, before winning the Gr2 Gold Bracelet.
Her Charity Mile third when beaten a shade under a length, was an excellent pipe opener, considering it came off a 90 day break and over a distance patently short of her best.
Knowing Sean Tarry, he will have her razor sharp come Saturday and besides, she jumps from near the rail and will again have the services of ace jockey Richard Fourie.
With a carryover of R2 million boosting the Betway Summer Cup day Pick 6 mega pool to a projected R10 million, there is plenty to play for!
Other carryovers to note on the day:
- Race 2: Bipot Leg 1 Likely Pool R400 000
- Race 3: Place Accumulator Leg 1 – Likely Pool R750 000
- Race 5: Jackpot Leg 1 – Likely Pool R750 000
- Race 7: Betway Summer Cup – Quartet Maxi Pool – R1 million carryover; likely Pool R4 million.
- Race 7: Jackpot Two Leg 1 – likely Pool R400 000