Gr2 Southern Cross Stakes: Blue Blood

added value for 1/2 sister to dam of G1 Breeder's Cup winner Pluck

Covenant - Gr2 Southern Cross S.

South African fillies do not come much better related than Covenant and the three-year-old boosted her value by infinitely more than the R125 000 first prize when she achieved her first black type win in the Tony Taberer Southern Cross Stakes over 1000m at Kenilworth on Saturday, writes Matthew Lips.

Covenant came into this WFA event for fillies and mares without ever having been tried at Stakes level, but she is clearly improving fast and went off as a strongly supported 17/10 favourite after running out the very easy winner of an ordinary fillies’ handicap over the same course-and-distance in November.  Maureen De Lago – one of four fillies in the race sporting the colours of owner Hassen Adams – was the 5/1 second choice after a promising seasonal debut in October.

Covenant doesn’t lack for pace and pretty much ran her eight rivals off their feet from the start.  The first attempt to get the Southern Cross started saw the entire field burst through the pens prematurely and have to be reloaded, but Covenant was clearly unflustered by it all and gave a thoroughly professional display.  She showed plenty of early pace along with Maureen De Lago, Fragrant Al and Country Girl, but had all of those pursuers well beaten off more than 200m from home.  State Blue and Emmajo made late headway wider out to eventually finish second and third respectively, but they never threatened to catch the favourite, who had 1.75 lengths to spare over State Blue at the line.  Emmajo eventually fared best of the Hassen Adams quartet and was a neck further behind State Blue, with Country Girl another two lengths away in fourth.

This may not have been the hottest Gr 2 ever, with the only previous Graded Stakes winner in the line-up being On Her Toes, who was racing for the first time since July 2009 and who weakened after showing some early toe to finish last.  However, Covenant proved to be a whole lot better than several other fillies with considerably higher merit ratings and her mark of 89 proved with hindsight to be no reflection whatsoever of her talent.  How much further she will stay remains to be seen, and she has a racing style which hints very strongly at the possibility that 1000m is her optimum distance, but a whole new range of options would be open to her if she proves as effective over 1200m, starting with the Gr 2 Sceptre Stakes at Kenilworth in early January.

Covenant was ridden here by Karl Neisius and is trained by Mike Bass for her owner/breeders, Varsfontein Stud, who are probably already salivating at the prospect of having her back in their paddocks one day.  The three-year-old daughter of Western Winter is out of the dual Listed-winning Bush Telegraph mare Secret Pact.  A full sister to London News, Secret Pact is the dam also of dual Gr 1 winning filly Promisefrommyheart and of Listed winner Secret Heart, who in turn is the dam of recent Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Pluck.  The talented but luckless (in the UK) Kings Gambit is also a member of this family and if Covenant was any better bred she’d be wearing a crown.  She has now won three times from five starts, earning R220 850.

Southern Cross S. (SAf-G2) (12/4)

Kenilworth, South Africa, December 4, R200.000, 1000m, turf, good, 59.82 (CR 56.67).

COVENANT (SAF), 56.0, b f 3, Western Winter – Secret Pact (SAF) by Bush Telegraph (SAF). Owner & breeder Varsfontein Stud (SAF); trainer M W Bass; jockey K Neisius (R132.609) – ½ to Secret Heart (dam of G1 Pluck)

State Blue (SAF), 60.0, ch f 4, National Assembly (CAN) – Jacaranda Blue (IRE) by Entrepreneur (GB)

Emmajo (SAF), 60.0, b f 4, Captain Al (SAF) – Enchanting Queen (SAF) by Enchantment (GB)

Margins: 1¾, nk, 2

Also ran: Country Girl (SAF) 56.0, Ribbons For Thee (SAF) 60.0, Tryst (SAF) 56.0, Maureen De Lago (AUS) 56.0, Fragrant Al (SAF) 56.0, On Her Toes (SAF) 60.0

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