The Gold Vase over 3000m promises to be one of the toughest races to unravel on the marathon 12 event card at Greyville on Saturday. It isn’t for the fainthearted to have a big bash in a 19 runner handicap over a distance so seldom used, but fortune favours the brave and Two Strikes could be the one to take a chance on, writes MATTHEW LIPS.
Two Strikes has started twice in KZN this winter and looks to be peaking at the right time after he stayed on steadily to finish an encouraging third behind easy winner Vertical Takeoff in the Gr3 Lonsdale Stirrup Cup (handicap) over 2400m at Greyville in June. Stephen Page’s five-year-old was in good form during the Cape summer season, staying on well to win a Gr3 handicap over 2500m before running on well to be beaten half-a-length by Sangria Girl at level weights in the Gr2 J&B Reserve Stayers over 2800m. He is a previous winner at Greyville and looks to have as much chance as any in this line-up, especially with Felix Coetzee aboard, but confidence in his prospects cannot be very high.
Golden Parachute is a real staying type who has already won a Gr3 over 3200m at Kenilworth this year, and he also looks to be hitting top form at the right time. He finished less than one length further behind Two Strikes in the Lonsdale last time, when also starting for the second time in KZN this year, and there could be little between them again as they meet on the same weight terms. Golden Parachute has also won at Greyville previously.
Atlantic Oak is a lightly raced filly who could be almost anything, especially racing beyond 2000m for the first time. It can be argued that she was very well weighted in a plate race when she beat Arabian Empire by less than one length over 1900m here in June, and that on merit ratings she ought to have won rather more easily, but she was only starting for the second time after almost a year off. She performed like a horse needing the run when she faded late first time out after that long rest and she is probably still improving. She could be better still over 3000m, and it would come as no surprise if she won even though the feeling persists that she may have plenty to do off her current mark in a handicap.
Paddy O’Reilly was weighted to win by a mile when he quickened nicely and beat Tamarillo by 2.25 lengths in a plate race over 2400m at Scottsville in April. He has a good deal more to do on handicap terms and faces Tamarillo on fully 5.5 kgs worse terms now. However, Glen Kotzen’s gelding did win in good style and he is a talented sort who faces Golden Parachute on 1 kg better terms for a beating of less than one length over 3200m in February. He can sometimes be slow away and seems a bit temperamental, but Paddy is by no means out of this with Marcus aboard.
Tamarillo would be weighted with a lively chance on best form, but he disappointed when making no show to finish some way behind both Two Strikes and Golden Parachute in the Lonsdale. Still, he cannot be written off on one below-par effort and he faces Knight To Remember on 2.5 kgs better terms for a neck beating over 2500m at Clairwood in May. He could appreciate going this far for the first time and a return to form by Craig Eudey’s gelding here would not be any sort of a surprise. Knight To Remember did quicken in impressive style when he came from last to win that 2500m event and followed it up with another game success over 2000m in sticky going at Clairwood subsequently. He needs to do more to win this at the weights, but it is not impossible that the striking grey will be an even better horse over 3000m.
Arcola stays all day, but she seems to be most effective when the going is soft and she was disappointing when beaten 11 lengths in the Gr2 Gold Bowl over 3200m at Turffontein in April. Unusually soft ground for the time of year would entitle her to consideration, but the course was seriously wet when she easily won a Turffontein Gr2 over 2850m at her penultimate start and conditions here may not suit her very well at all.
Aslan has shown only in-and-out form recently and faded after racing handy when beaten more than seven lengths into eighth place behind stable companion Vertical Takeoff in the Lonsdale. However, the former Gr1 Summer Cup winner didn’t run badly to finish four lengths third in the Gold Bowl at his penultimate start and he still retains the sort of ability needed to be a possible threat in long distance handicaps of this nature.
Stable companion Membrado is hard to fancy after he was beaten a long way in his last two starts, first behind Knight To Remember over 2500m, and more recently in the Lonsdale.
Jeppe’s Reef takes a very considerable step up in class after he stretched clear and beat Kolkata by four lengths in an ordinary 2500m handicap at Clairwood a fortnight ago. He could not have done much more, though, and he is facing Atlantic Oak on all of 7 kgs better terms for a one length beating over 1900m here in June. He gives the impression of a horse who probably will cope with 3000m and Mike Bass’ gelding is very much one for the shortlist. Stable companion Another Giant was making late headway from last on the turn when he finished sixth of 18 in the Lonsdale and could improve going this far for the first time. He is weighted with a very good chance of beating Knight To Remember on their meeting over 2500m in May and the son of Giant’s Causeway is certainly not without each way claims here.
Grey Cossack did well in staying events during the Cape season, but has been off the boil in KZN and faded to finish a long way behind Knight To Remember at Clairwood before performing in similar fashion in the Lonsdale. He needs a very real and sudden return to form, which seems improbable. Knight’s Inlet did nothing to enhance his chances when he faded to finish last of nine in a set weights race over 2600m on the Turffontein inner track in June. He can do much better and finished a promising fourth in a Gr3 handicap over 3200m last November, but his subsequent efforts make one rush to look elsewhere for the likely contenders. Predestination is a very useful stayer at best and was a winner the only time he tried 3000m, but he has been completely off the boil recently and was beaten more than 20 lengths which finishing dead last in the Lonsdale. He was returning from an absence of more than three months, but will need a warp-speed form return to win this just four weeks after such a poor showing.
In Writing was disappointing when he weakened and finished 8.70 lengths tenth in the Lonsdale. He had good form earlier and finished 1.75 lengths third behind Golden Parachute over 3200m in February on very similar weight terms to these. He still has something even on that form to win here, and he has the worst of the draw in a race which doesn’t really start a million miles from the first turn. He looks to have no easy task, all in all. Rapid Flow has started twice since a change of stables and fared better when she finished a well beaten second in a fillies’ handicap over 2400m at Scottsville in May, but a good deal more is needed here. She does get the distance, but others are selected.
Tres Forte looks out of his depth and was beaten ten lengths behind Paddy O’Reilly at Scottsville last time out. Stable companion Shere Khan also looks well held and could only finish eight lengths seventh behind Jeppe’s Reef at Clairwood last time. What’s Going On has inconsistent recent form and never showed before finishing behind a good number of these rivals in the Lonsdale. His penultimate effort behind Knight To Remember was more encouraging, but he often loses ground at the start and could be forced to race from a long way off the pace from a wide draw. All things considered he doesn’t make much appeal.
About The Pace
Possible candidates for the role of ensuring a reasonable tempo include Membrado and Grey Cossack, but despite the big field a frantic pace doesn’t seem particularly likely. This is very much the sort of race where you pays your money and crosses your fingers, but Two Strikes appeals as having quite a lot going for him and is selected ahead of Golden Parachute, the latter’s stable companion Jeppe’s Reef, Atlantic Oak, and Paddy O’Reilly.