A bit of luck, coupled with gate speed from barrier draw positions will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the R350 000 Gr2 Post Merchants run over 1200m at Greyville on Friday evening. A capacity field further skews the picture, but trainer Mike De Kock may hold the ace with the only runner representing the fairer sex.
KwaZulu Natal is, for whatever reason, the only racing centre in the country that enjoys major sponsorship support from local newspapers. The Post celebrates close to sixty years of keeping the community abreast of what is happening and they will proudly be associated in 2013 with one of the best Merchants fields to line up in many years.
The Greyville 1200m sprint track places a major emphasis on the barrier draw and the combined ability of horse and rider to either overcome the adversity or minimise the adverse impact of a wide jump.
It is popularly called tactical damage control, but there is no denying that being well drawn is a bonus that will be grabbed with those that have been blessed with it, with both hands.
The hustle and bustle and jockeying for position in a contest that is over in a minute plus ten seconds, but is often decided in that manic first five seconds, will be savoured by the seasoned enthusiast.
Split second decisions to hold or go, dash or flash or just a prayer for the gaps, brings out a rush of adrenaline and an optimum demand on experience and nerves from the riders.
One man who can handle the task blindfolded is the Avontuur sponsored Anthony Delpech. He rides the top class Oasis Dream mare Welwitschia for Mike De Kock and their esteemed client Wilgerbosdrift Stud. Welwitschia is the only lady in the race.
The pair are drawn tight against the paint, and will be most concerned with not losing position and getting lost too far back in the haste and scramble for position on their outside. Welwitschia is a notoriously slow starter, but she has an electrifying late turn of foot that should get her out of trouble again.
Interestingly this is Welwitschia’s first run at Greyville. The six time multiple Group winner was slightly disappointing at her last start when she finished 5,50 lengths off the brilliant Via Africa in the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint last month.
Welwitschia gave Via Africa 1,5kgs and lost her customary length or two at the start. So all told, that was not entirely humbling and she ticks plenty of the basic boxes in this race.
Her stablemate Merhee continues to show good improvement. He is one of eight runners in this race that ran in the Gr1 Golden Horse Sprint on the sprint festival day held in the KZN capital city in May. Merhee finished an eyecatching third there and just 2,25 lengths off Contador.
He is 2,5kgs better off with Gavin Van Zyl’s Strike Smartly gelding Wild Type, who was the top finisher of the eight, when running second in the big Gr1 sprint. Wild Type will have to improve further, but appears to be reaching his peak form at the right time and is well drawn.
Ormond Ferraris’ Snowdon has drawn poorly and ran a moderate race in the Golden Horse Sprint. The son of Western Winter took little interest there and was outpaced throughout before running into tenth position and 7,75 lengths behind the winner. He was four lengths behind Copper Parade who is 1,5kgs better off with him here. The bottom line is that it looks a tough task for Snowdon.
Cap Alright is another held by Copper Parade on the Golden Horse clash. The gallant son of Captain Al ran a rare poor race when fading out in the Golden Horse Sprint to finish a dismal 23,50 lengths off the winner. He was reported coughing there and his connections will doubtless have place aspirations for their one speed special spook. He won’t be hindered too much by hi 11 draw.
Fit and Fast
Dennis Drier’s Tipo Tinto is an Australian bred 4yo who registered an excellent hat trick that commenced during the Cape’s Sizzling Summer Season. The son Of Hussonet has run two good fourths in April and May and will strip a fit horse with this race no doubt one of his main targets of Champions Season. Sean Cormack rides him at his first attempt at Group level and he should prove very competitive with luck from his 9 draw.
Captain’s Secret looked to be edging back to his better form before being cramped and hampered in the Golden Horse Sprint. That did his cause no good at all and he consequently faded right out of contention. The Mike Bass runner will be ridden by Bernard Fayd’herbe who knows him like the back of his hand and from a good draw could be the dark horse at a track that he enjoys.
He is a lot more favourably weighted here, and could prove some serious value if in a galloping mood. Wendy Whitehead’s speedy Coffee Sheik has to overcome a 13 draw, but ran a cracking fifth just 3,75 lengths off Contador in the Golden Horse Sprint.
He is all of 3kgs better off with Wild Type and has his second try in blinkers. He is fit and well and has the typical look of a well tried capable sort who could come up trumps in a race of this nature, if things go his way.
Vaughan Marshall’s The West Is Wide weakened late at his opening Champions Season effort when a quiet fifth and 3,50 lengths off Cape Royal in the Listed In Full Flight Handicap.
The Gr3 Cape Nursery winner has been lightly raced and has some fair form to good sorts in his 11 runs. He appears to have plenty of scope for improvement and will fit a stripper horse here. He is worth including in all calculations. Yvette Bremner brings the Victory Moon colt Blaze Of Fire up from the Eastern Cape.
The seven time winner was pipped at his last start in the Arlington 1400 by the former Joey Ramsden trained In A Rush. Blaze Of Fire is consistency personified but is probably best at around 200 to 400m further.
Back For More
Last year’s winner Mike’s Choice has not won since, but the big hearted handicapper is always worth considering. The son of Tamburlaine encountered traffic problems before fading to finish 11,75 lengths back in the Golden Horse Sprint. He drops a half kilo in the weights here, but will need luck from his 14 draw.(he won it from the 5 gate in a field of 14 last year).
Joey Ramsden brings three runners to the Merchants party. His well travelled Lecture gelding Copper Parade has yet to scale the heights of his contentious Gr1 Golden Horseshoe victory of 2010, and has only won twice since.
Despite that he is seldom far off the action and some forward placed efforts in Port Elizabeth would have done his confidence plenty of good. Best drawn of the Ramsden trio is the 3yo Var gelding Gogotine who botched his scheduled prep run three weeks ago by playing up and bolting from the start on the big sprint day at Scottsville.
That means that Gogotine has not seen action since running unplaced behind Lancelin at Kenilworth on 23 February. He may thus need this run. Gogotine is no slouch though and has won fifty percent of his starts in mostly impressive fashion and it will be interesting to see how he handles the deeper waters.
The third of the Ramsden runners is the grey Shades Of Indigo. The 7yo son of Indigo Magic has won seven races in a career of loyal service, but has lost his form recently. He has not won since a cracking victory in the Gr2 Cape Merchants run over 1200m at Kenilworth on 13 November 2011.
The 4yo Muhtafal gelding Showmetheway is going to have an uphill battle from his 15 draw. Mark Dixon’s five time winner was never in the hunt when running downfield in the Gr1 Computaform Sprint won by What A Winter at Turffontein on Champions Day.He has his first run back in his home province and cannot be fancied.
James Goodman’s 3yo Mogok gelding Piano Man has won 4 of his 10 starts, and his last two on the trot. He is a pacy youngster who is well drawn, but faces a test as he steps up in class and into the bullring of Group race competition for the first time.
The Melting Pot
Just as when purchasing a home, the three most important influencing factors here will be position, position and position. Lady Luck is likely to play a major factor in the jostle for dominance from the draws. The economics of getting a good position for minimal outlay is likely to play in favour of the likes of Welwitschia, Captain’s Secret, Merhee, Gogotine and Tipo Tinto.
The race does not exclude the rest though, and last year’s winner Mike’s Choice and the in form Wild Type could be right there. PE visitor Blaze Of Fire and Ramsden’s Copper Parade are also not to be overlooked. But buyer beware!