There is no better place to settle any debate than on the racetrack itself. Colin Bird’s Jet Master filly Jet Belle gets the chance of a lifetime when she lines up in Saturday’s R300 000 Gr2 Gold Bracelet to be run over 2000m at Greyville.
It would also be most sentimentally appropriate for the 3yo filly to register her biggest win to date on the same day of a race in which her Mom enjoyed her own finest hour.
It was on 1 August 1998 that her dam, the Geoff Woodruff trained Bella Bianca, won the Gr1 Gold Cup under Felix Coetzee, getting the better of Kale in an exciting finish.
Bella Bianca’s good daughter , the lightly raced Jet Belle, was just one of the subjects of a public reaction to the announcement of the Vodacom Durban July field. In an unprecedented move, the National Horseracing Authority announced that a full enquiry would be held into the entire process.
Supplemented at a cost of R25 000 after her excellent effort in the Gr1 Woolavington 2000, Jet Belle was subsequently eliminated and her owner Colin Bird, as is his prerogative, took exception to the panel decision.
Just to recap a portion of Bird’s letter to the racing operator following Jet Belle’s elimination from the July:
‘My horse Jet Belle is a filly with a very good racing record and passes all the criteria suggested by Gold Circle to enter the Durban July. Her claims are Gr 1 places, course and distance suited and much improving as evidenced by her recent very close defeat in the Gr 1 Woolavington running very close to the selected horse Do You Remember.
She is in good form and could be part of a July finish that the racing crowds enjoy, since her style is a late burst with tremendous progress in the last couple of hundred metres.
I am being careful not to turn disappointment into a personal ‘moan’ but I do feel that I have a genuine grievance. When I supplemented Jet Belle I had reasonable expectations of a run and good performance. I do not think the panel seriously considered my claim and the criteria for real expectations as ignored despite my supplement fee.’
While a victory by Jet Belle on Saturday will make little impact on the panel, it will certainly provide Bird with some vindication and more than a measure of satisfaction after his disappointment. Robbie Sage’s charge certainly has the credentials to wear the Gold Bracelet. Lightly raced, she has shown top ability since a runaway debut win over a far too short 1200m at Turffontein in December.
Jet Belle followed up with a win at her second outing and her career was on track. She then went straight into the Triple Tiara, and was not disgraced finishing two thirds and a not disrant fifth to the brilliant Cherry On The Top. Rested for five weeks, Jet Belle travelled down to Durban to contest the Gr1 Woolavington 2000 and landed up turning the tables on Cherry On The Top beating her two lengths. She finished a head third to Do You Remember and Blueridge Mountain.
Do You Remember made the July cut and history now shows that she ran a cracker when under a half length third and gaining, to Heavy Metal. Where would that have put Jet Belle in terms of some of those that made the July cut ahead of her? In the hands of regular pilot Gunter Wrogemann, Jet Belle steps out over the same course and distance on Saturday as the Woolavington and gets her big chance.
Who can beat her? Gr1 Empress Club Stakes winner Thunder Dance is now based with Mike De Kock. She never showed in the Garden Province Stakes when finishing 8 lengths off Beach Beauty and despite that is capable of a forward performance. She has to give Jet Belle 1,5kgs. De Kock also sends out Checcetti and Berry Blaze, both of whom ran in Sunday’s Listed Off To Stud Handicap.
Checcetti showed up very well to run second there, while Berry Blaze was slow away and always under pressure. If they do line up here, neither look capable of upstaging Jet Belle.
Duncan Howells’ Dooweley mare Louvre is in the form of her life since leaving Marwing in Gauteng, and the Tibouchina Stakes winner ran a cracker in the Garden Province Stakes. Showing her customary prominent race tactics, she stayed on like a soldier to be beaten under two lengths by Beach Beauty. Louvre’s best form is over shorter, but her breeding on both sides suggests that she will go the distance here. Vaughan Marshall’s Europe To Africa may have been outclassed in the Garden Province Stakes, but won her previous two starts well.
Sean Tarry’s Happy Archer is battling to regain her best form and will be ridden by the high riding S’manga Khumalo. Charles Laird’s Dylan’s Promise was a runaway winner of the KZN Oaks under a genius ride by Kevin Shea. The handicapper would agree that she has no chance at level weights with Jet Belle.
In a race where there is an element of pace, Jet Belle should be settled early by Wrogemann and allowed to run at them late. She looks the right one to lift the honours and is selected to beat Thunder Dance and Louvre.