Derby: Open To Debate

Gr2 Gold Circle Derby at Clairwood on Sunday

Il Saggiatore commands a very nice turn of foot.

Gr2 Gold Circle Derby over 2400m at Clairwood on Sunday

A level weights contest for 3yo’s, the Gr2 Gold Circle Derby is usually a race for the connoisseur of the sport of the kings, but somewhat surprisingly, only nine have accepted this time around, writes Steve Furnish.
The only coupling in the race is that of Greg Ennion who not only saddles the highest rated runner in the field Mystic Moon, but also Abiington.

Mystic Moon
One of three runners sired by Victory Moon in the event, Mystic Moon has not proven to be the most consistent of performers, but he does nonetheless have bags of ability as he showed when winning the listed Politician Stakes over 1800m at Kenilworth in January. Indeed, Mystic Moon finished well in that event and he did have both the dual Guineas winner Solo Traveller, and the second highest rated runner here, Il Saggiatore behind him. He’s been improving with each step up in distance and he did record his highest rating to date in our book when beaten less than three lengths by The Apache in the Gr2 Daily News over 2000m last time out. He has his third run after a short break here. Expect a big run.

Abington
Stable companion Abington has run some tremendous races in defeat, most notably when finishing a close up second to the two subsequent graded race winners English Garden and Splash Gold during the recent Cape season. Amazingly though, Abington has only managed to get his head in front once in sixteen starts and having been well beaten in his only previous sortie beyond 1600m, he is not easy to fancy.

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Il Saggiatore
An eye catching winner of his first three career starts, Joey Ramsden’s charge commands a very nice turn of foot on his day. Indeed, he was finishing as well as anything when only beaten 2,6 lengths in the Gr1 Cape Guineas and although he was then beaten by Mystic Moon in the Politician Stakes, he was finishing much the stronger. He was also finishing faster than Mystic Moon when only picked off in the very last stride by Top Seller in the Cape Derby. Mystic Moon did marginally finish ahead of him in the Daily News last time out, but that was at Greyville, and as well as the extra ground, this son of Galileo is sure to appreciate the longer home straight. Il Saggiatore also has his third run after a break here and with  Anton Marcus quietly doing his best to regain his national jockey’s title, I expect him to at least fight it out.

Mystic Moon has the highest merit rating

Roman Wall
Sean Tarry’s charge impressed when heavily supported to win on debut and when staying on gamely to take fifth in the Gr2 Gauteng Guineas in just his third career start, he looked to be a very good sort in the making. He battled to reach the same heights in his next four starts, but did then run his best rating to date in our book when trying to make all in the Daily News. He was outpaced by several runners in the latter stages of that event though, and now having an extra 400m to travel, down a much longer straight, he may battle to see it out.

Ice Axe
As with Il Saggiatore, Ice Axe won his first three career starts and at that time he looked to be destined for much better things. He’s performed with credit since stepping up in class and is yet to finish out of the first two. Along with Il Saggiatore though, Ice Axe is owned by Marcus and Ingrid Jooste and with his regular partner Anton Marcus deserting him, in what is clearly his stiffest task to date, he does seem unlikely.

A King Is Born
The second Empire gelding A King Is Born won with authority after making a typically moderate debut and was then impressive when winning in novice company next time out. He was beaten fair and square when taking on stronger in his next two starts though and now taking another considerable jump up in class, he clearly has no easy task.

Magnanimous
Unable to make the frame, other than when shedding his maiden tag by a half length, Glen Puller’s charge looked pretty ordinary during the course of his first six racecourse appearances. He showed considerable improvement when cruising in by seven in his penultimate start though, and did then run up to that rating when only beaten a length and three quarters in the KZN 2000 last time out. He could well improve over the extra here, but he is now taking a huge leap in class and is another who won’t find this easy.

Sage Throne
The dark horse of the race is undoubtedly Sage Throne. A son of the impressive July winner Dynasty, Sage Throne has won both starts since returning from a six month break in April and was particularly impressive when beating some very useful older horses going away over 1950m at the sharp Scottsville inner track last time out. As well as the longer galloping straight at the garden course, Colin Scott’s charge is sure is relish the extra 450m. He has his third run after the rest here and could yet turn out to be anything.

Solera
As with Magnanimous, Solera had shown little prior to winning with authority in his penultimate start. He also reproduced his improved rating next time out, but the ability of Flavio who beat him in a lowly MR71 Handicap last time out, falls a long way short of those that oppose him here.

About The Pace
With very little speed in the race, and just nine runners going to post over a distance of 2400m, there is a serious possibility that what should really be a test of stamina will develop into a sprint. The joker in the pack in undoubtedly Sage Throne and I for one am very interested to see how he fares.  Il Saggiatore and Mystic Moon are the most likely to fight this out on form shown though and of the two I prefer Il Saggiatore.

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