Dance With Al was the solitary rose amongst the thorns when she took on 14 male rivals in the Betting World Merchants over 1200m at Kenilworth on Sunday, but the only girl in the line-up showed the boys a thing or two when she was delivered with a well-timed challenge to pick up the nearly R200 000 first prize on offer in this valuable handicap.
Talented Captain’s Secret had won a set weights event over 1000m in late October when racing for the first time since January and went off as the 5/2 favourite for the Merchants, a race in which his trainer Mike Bass appeared to have a strong hand. The yard was represented by three other runners including the ever danger Gaultier and Rushing Wind, who’d been beaten half-a-length by Captain’s Secret three weeks earlier but who now met that stable companion on 1.5 kgs better terms. Both of this pair went off at odds of around 6/1 in company with top weight Rabbatache, while Dance With Al was a 10/1 chance in her first appearance since a disappointing run on heavy ground in August.
Gaultier was the early lead and showed the way at a nice clip just ahead of August Rush, Jamaican Dream and Los Colmos, who was the least fancied of the Bass quartet. Captain’s Secret, Rabattache and Rushing Wind were all a few lengths off the action, while Dance With Al was also content to race in behind the leading pack. August Rush came through to take over racing into the final 300m and made the best of his way home under visiting English rider William Buick, but Neil Bruss’ KZN raider was taken on from all directions coming to the last 100m. It was Dance With Al who got all the right breaks the right time, storming to the front in the closing stages under Anthony Delpech and going on to win by half-a-length from a determined and rejuvenated Jamaican Dream. The latter ran two shockers in succession in his final two starts of the KZN winter season and was having his first outing since, but he has always had loads of ability and Yogas Govender’s gelding went down fighting behind a rival who was carrying 4.5 kgs less than he.
Rushing Wind was probably done favours whatsoever by his 2 draw on a day when the action in sprint races was happening up the outside, but he ran on steadily and was only three-quarters of a length further behind Jamaican Dream in third. It is worth noting that the two that beat him were drawn 15 and 12 respectively and this was a very good effort from Mike Bass’ gelding, but it could be argued that he merely ran to form at the weights by finishing about 1.5 lengths in front of Captain’s Secret, who could only manage sixth place after never being seen with a serious chance. August Rush eventually ran out of steam late in the day and finished fourth, a head behind Rushing Wind, but those who feared that Rabattache’s merit rating was too high for what he had achieved in winning a string of lesser races were seemingly proven to be correct when he was unable to land any sort of a blow under 60 kgs and finished 13th.
The decision to keep Dance With Al in training as a five-year-old was quite obviously vindicated by this performance. The Justin Snaith-trained mare has plenty of options this Cape summer season, for although she has never won beyond 1200m she has been Gr 1 placed, beaten less than two lengths, over 1600m. That would lend itself to a bid for a first Gr 1 success for the mare in a race like the Majorca Stakes on J & B Met day, perhaps, although her trainer’s wealth of equine talent could leave Dance With Al facing her hugely promising stable companion Ebony Flyer in a race like that. Before the Majorca there are the two traditional big fillies’ sprints of the summer, the Southern Cross over 1000m and the Sceptre over 1200m.
Dance With Al is owned by Hassen Adams and was acquired for R165 000 at the 2007 National Two Year Old Sale. Bred by Willem Engelbrecht, Dance With Al is a daughter of the hugely prolific Captain Al. She is the eighth foal, fifth winner and first Stakes winner produced from Dancing Champ mare Dancing Miss, who failed to win during an unremarkable track career. Bought for R165 000 at the 2007 National Two-Year-Old Sale, Dance With Al has won six times from 21 starts for stakes of R667 865.
BETTING WORLD MERCHANTS H. (SAf-G2)
KENILWORTH, South Africa, November 14, $43,110, 3&up, 1,200mT (5.97fT), 1:11.77.
1st—=DANCE WITH AL (SAF), 117, B. m. 5, =Captain Al (SAf)—=Dancing Miss (SAf), by Dancing Champ. Owner—H. Adams; Breeder—W. J. Engelbrecht (jnr) (SAf); Trainer—Justin Snaith.
2nd—=JAMAICAN DREAM (SAF), 127, B. g. 5, =Lizard Island (Aus)—=Ember Dream (SAf), by =Flaming Rock (Ire).
3rd—=RUSHING WIND (SAF), 122, B. g. 5, Windrush—=Nordic Vine (SAf), by Northern Guest.
Margins: 1/2, 3/4, neck.