R1.5 million Gr1 SA Derby, Turffontein 2450m (standside) on Saturday
Just one of nine graded races on Champion’s Day, The final leg of South Africa’s Triple Crown is always an interesting affair as most of the runners will be going this distance for the first time. English Garden came out best when nine of today’s runners contested the second leg of the Triple Crown over 1800m five weeks ago, but the extra 650m here could make a big difference, writes Steve Furnish.
Seven of those nine have the highest merit ratings here, but none as yet have traveled this far
At home in both good and soft underfoot conditions, this son of Camden Park progressed very quickly as a juvenile last season and in just his third career start was thought good enough to contest the Gr1 Premiers Champion Stakes. He was given a four month break after finishing seventh in that event, and since his return in November, he has been going from strength to strength. He’s shown improvement with each start in our book and ran his best race to date when beating the best of his rivals here (on paper) in the Gr1 SA Classsic over 1800m last time out. English Garden was drawn widest of the fifteen in that latest outing and running on best of all, went on to win fair and square. The manner of English Garden’s success in the Classic would suggest that he will get the extra here and having his third run since arriving on the highveld, he should be at his peak.
Vaughan Marshall’s charge made it a one two for the Cape raiders when finishing a runner up in the SA Classic and he too ran on strongly. A runner up to the very talented What A Winter in the Gr2 Selangor Cup earlier in the season, this son of Al Mufti went on to win the Gr1 Cape Derby and finishing best of all in that 2000m event won going away. Top Seller has the beating of English Garden on a line through the Cape Derby runner up Il Saggiatore, and he was having his first run on the highveld when beaten by that one in the SA Classic last time out. The Cape Derby run would suggest that Top seller will relish the extra here and that makes him a very serious runner.
Since making a winning debut in August, this son of Galileo has been showing improvement with each outing. He ran on stoutly over the final 400m of the Guineas and he again finished well when third in the SA Classic last time out. Strictly by the book, Galileo’s Destiny is held by both English Garden and Top Seller on that Classic run, but improvement has come with each step up in distance and if that trend continues here, he is sure to be involved again.
Stable companion Not Liable ran the Cape Derby runner up Il Saggiatore to a length in the KZN Guineas Trial earlier in the season and that puts him very close to the best here. His form since then has been a little in and out, and he was well beaten by English Garden in the SA Classic last time out. His latest win did come over 2000m though and the manner of that success would suggest that he will see out the extra.
Mike’s De Kock’s charge put up a performance nothing short of sensational when beating the subsequent Gr1 Queen’s Plate winner, and J&B Met runner up Mother Russia in the Gr2 Victory Moon Stakes over 1800m here in November, and as a result of that effort was sent off favourite to win the prestigious Gr1 Summer Cup. Perana folded tamely after making the running in that event though and has since been beaten by runners in this race in his four subsequent outings. He is firmly held on those most recent outings, but one gets the feeling that this enigmatic character could bounce back at any time.
After finishing a runner up over 1950m in just his second career start, stable companion Dark wind progressed well and very quickly won four in a row. He’s performed with credit since stepping up to contest feature events and he is still steadily improving. He was beaten after holding every chance in the SA Classic though, and on that, others are preferred.
The Windrush gelding Belmonte had been coming along nicely since the turn of the year and he did show considerable improvement when finishing a well beaten seventh in the SA Classic in his penultimate start. He has only managed one win in eleven outings since shedding his maiden tag at the first attempt a year ago though, and having finished lame on the near fore when beaten some 21 lengths last time out, he cannot be fancied.
As with a few of Ormond Ferraris’ runners of late, Ice Flag has been putting in his best performances when Anthony Delpech has been in the saddle. He’s shown flashes of real ability and having already won twice over further than he races today, he is one of the few who is guaranteed to see out the trip. This son of Classic Flag ran on well when narrowly getting the better of Seal over today’s course and distance in March and he again finished strongly when a runner up over 2400m at the Vaal last time out. Ice Flag is now taking a big step up in class though and will need to show considerable further improvement if he is to trouble the best here.
The highest rated of Gavin Van Zyl’s two runners is Money Grubber. Another of those who has a bit to find on paper, this lightly raced son of Strike Smartly has done very little wrong. He ran on particularly well when winning in handicap company over 2000m here in his penultimate start and judging on that effort, he looks sure to appreciate the extra. The going was soft when he was well beaten in the Classic and it is worth noting that he was also well beaten in his only previous outing in those conditions. He could still improve plenty on good ground. A dark horse.
Already proven over today’s trip, stable companion Seal has been improving with each start since being put over ground. He was beaten fair and square, albeit narrowly, by Ice Flag in his penultimate start though, and as with that one, he will probably find it difficult to make his presence felt now considerably up in class.
Michael Azzie’s charge is as consistent as they come and has thoroughly deserved his two wins. He has been beaten fair and square in each of his last six outings against weaker though and does look to be out of his depth here.
Kom Naidoo’s charge has caught the eye running on stoutly on a number of occasions and having finished strongly over 2400m at Greyville in his penultimate start, he is one of the few who is sure to get the trip. Since making a winning debut over 1200m though, he has failed to find the winner’s enclosure in ten starts and is yet to set off at a shorter price in the betting market than 15/2.
Prior to shedding his maiden tag over 2600m, Brian Wiid’s charge had failed to get within 4,75 lengths of a winner in five starts. He had been improving with every run since returning from a break in January though, and he did win particularly well last time out. He can still improve plenty, but this really is a huge step up in class.
About The Pace
With no out and out frontrunners in the field, there is a chance that the race could develop into a sprint and with all of the principal runners yet to travel this far, a shock result could quite easily be on the cards. All things being equal though, English Garden has to rate the one to beat.