Dancewiththedevil has been in terrific form over 1600m this year, with three Gr 1 wins to her credit already – two of them against male rivals. At first glance she looks almost impossible to oppose against her own gender in the Garden Province Stakes over the Greyville 1600m on Saturday, and while there are one or two reservations she nevertheless remains the logical selection, writes MATTHEW LIPS.
The primary concern with Dancewiththedevil is that her habitual style of racing from a long way off the early pace could count against her at Greyville with its short run-in, and all of her best form has come on ground that at least had the sting out when it wasn’t downright soft. Any unseasonal rain would be a real plus, but that still wouldn’t address the issue of whether she can be effective around a sharp course like Greyville. St John Gray’s four-year-old again produced a terrific turn of foot from the tail of the field when just getting the better of Bravura in the Gr1 Gold Challenge in sticky going at Clairwood recently and needed almost every inch of that longer straight to get there, but that is not to say that she cannot be effective if set alight early at Greyville. The daughter of Modus Vivendi can in any case afford to run some way below her merit rating and still win, so it seems foolhardy to go against her, but there remains that potential Achilles’ Heel and there could be more to the race than meets the eye.
Imperious Star won the Gr1 Woolavington 2000 at Greyville last winter, and although she has disappointed since she did show some signs of a possible form return when 3.65 lengths fifth behind Fragrant Al in the recent Gr2 Tibouchina Stakes over 1450m at Clairwood. She was returning from a 19 week lay-off and will appreciate going back over a longer distance, so an improved effort here seems distinctly possible. She can be an effective frontrunner, which means she will probably turn for home a long way ahead of Dancewith-thedevil, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Imperious Star can upstage the probable hot favourite.
Beach Beauty has done virtually nothing wrong with five wins from six starts and appeals as the best of the four three-year-olds in this line-up. The daughter of Dynasty is probably still on the upgrade and ran on well when getting the better of Berry Blaze by half-a-length in the Gr2 KRA Fillies Guineas over this course-and-distance in May. Dennis Drier’s filly now faces easily the most demanding task of her career to date, but she has a very good turn of foot and we still don’t really know just how good she is. She could be more than good enough to make her presence felt.
Fisani is an honest performer who can fill a minor place, but she was beaten 5.5 lengths into fourth behind Dancewith-thedevil in the Gr1 Empress Club Stakes at Turffontein in April and there seems to be no realistic way she can reverse that form on the same weight terms. She has the 1 draw, though, and probably will run well again without really threatening to win.
Happy Archer was a Gr1 winner against two-year-old fillies over this course-and-distance on July day last season and ran a cracker when going down by a short head to Fragrant Al in the recent Tibouchina Stakes. She probably copes with 1600m better than Fragrant Al, so she can reverse the form, and Happy Archer met with some traffic problems when beaten almost six lengths behind Beach Beauty in the KRA Fillies Guineas. She is better than that effort and could snatch a prize, but Beach Beauty is preferred to her again.
Fragrant Al is a very game frontrunner, but she is not well drawn and could be found wanting where it matters most. Riding arrangements nevertheless imply that she is preferred to stable companion Dance With Al, who also has a poor draw and who is probably best suited to sprinting even though she has run well in defeat over 1600m more than once. She was out of her depth when unplaced in the Gr1 Golden Horse Sprint at Scottsville in May, but her form on the whole is solid. Still, others do make greater appeal here.
Give Me Five
Give Me Five is another who is perhaps more effective around 1200m and she made no show when a well beaten sixth behind Fragrant Al at Clairwood recently. She was drawn widest of 12 that day, though, and she had some very good earlier form. She is not without a place chance if she can show something close to her best form over a mile, but others seem more probable threats. Stable companion Autumn Gold put up her best effort for a while when she finished less than five lengths behind Fragrant Al in the Tibouchina. She is well proven over 1600m, but needs to do more to be a threat.
Croc Valley was beaten some nine lengths when she finished tenth in the Tibouchina, but probably can do a bit better and ran well under 60 kgs when beaten 1.25 lengths by lightly weighted Wings Over Skye in a plate race over 1500m at Clairwood two starts ago. She won a Listed handicap under 60 kgs over 1700m at Kenilworth in January, but has a long way to go to prove she’s a proper Gr1 performer. Secret Babe showed a return to her best form with the first time use of blinkers when she ran on well to beat We Three by 1.25 lengths in a set weights event over 1900m at Greyville early in June. This is a much stiffer test, though, and she has the widest draw.
Engagement drew clear easily when the 2.5 lengths winner of a Listed handicap over 1600m on the Turffontein inner course in May, but she was beaten upwards of a dozen lengths behind stable companion Dancewiththedevil twice in succession before that. She may get somewhat closer to her esteemed stablemate on a tighter course like this, but it still takes a big stretch of imagination to visualize Engagement faring the better of the St John Gray runners here. Dance To The Stars has posted three of her four career wins over this course-and-distance, most recently when she beat Legal Account by 1.25 lengths at virtual level weights in April. Legal Account subsequently finished the identical distance behind Beach Beauty in the KRA Fillies Guineas and collateral form would give Dance To The Stars a place chance if one can forgive her a very disappointing subsequent effort when finishing 11th in a Listed handicap over 2000m at Clairwood. She may have failed to stay that far, but it wasn’t a good run.
Dance To The Stars’ stable companion Romantic Moon goes beyond sprints for the first time and as a daughter of Silvano there is the possibility that she will enjoy it. She has shown plenty of speed over 1200m, which in truth does create something of a stamina doubt, but her form is good and she surely had too much to do in the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint last time out. There is nothing between her and Dance With Al on their form behind Headstrong in a Gr3 over 1200m at Clairwood in April and Romantic Moon could be the dark horse of this race, but it does require a considerable leap of faith to actually open the wallet and back her.
About The Pace
Engagement has won making all, and it is not impossible by any means that she is here primarily to ensure a decent pace for stable companion Dancewiththedevil, whose style of racing makes a decent gallop virtually essential. Fragrant Al and Imperial Al also go well with frontrunning tactics, although neither would be likely to set a truly strong gallop, while Romantic Moon could be another contender for the frontrunners’ role. Hopefully the pace will be strong enough to give Dancewiththedevil every opportunity to stretch her legs in time, and she is selected to win ahead of Imperious Star, Beach Beauty, Fisani, and Happy Archer.