Port Elizabeth grabs the national focus this weekend with the running of the R350 000 Gr3 Betting World Algoa Cup over the Fairview 2000m. A capacity field goes to post with plenty of interest from down south. With a powerful local challenge, the visitors could well find the ‘Friendly City’ tag something of a branding misnomer.
Port Elizabeth stretches for 16 km along Algoa Bay, and is one of the major seaports in South Africa. The centre has come a long way since being founded as a town in 1820, and proof of that can be found at this weekend’s three day party (they call it a festival for correctness) in the uber new facilities at Fairview. Who would have thought that this once minor racing jurisdiction would lead the field and boast the first international class Polytrack in the country?
The Gr3 Algoa Cup will be run on the familiar Fairview 2000m turf track though and the race that is known fondly as the ‘local July’ has attracted a strong field of nineteen runners. While the domicile lines are blurred as few horses commence their careers here, we count ten genuine visitors in total. Vaughan Marshall and MJ Byleveld are back in town after winning the race last year with the smart Hill Fifty Four.
They go to post on the back of the 5yo Rock Of Gibraltar mare Europe To Africa, who returns to action after an unplaced effort in a strong Gold Bracelet on Super Saturday. Fred Crabbia’s runner has a big weight to carry, and may need some good fortune to earn here.
Hit The Floor
Joey Ramsden saddles Disco Al, who got very lucky (unlike most of the other Ramden entrants on the weekend) with a nice 4 draw. While no jockey was declared at time of going to press, this 4yo Captain Al gelding must be considered as a serious candidate for honours if adapting to the right handed track.
A winner of 3 of his 14 starts to date, he has an electrifying turn of foot over this trip and finished with a flourish to beat his stablemate Coltrane last time out at Durbanville. He also won his previous start over the mile at the country course, and comes in fit here with a handy galloping 53kgs.
Justin Snaith will hardly feel like a visitor in these parts with his satellite yard firing on all cylinders under the guidance of Estelle Blake, They are represented by a powerful trio of the smart True Master, Johnny Rockets and Indian Hawk.
True Master was mentioned as a Vodacom Durban July candidate earlier this year, and the handsome son of Jet Master looks to be the stable elect in the hands of Richard Fourie.
True Master won the East Cape Derby at this track last season in a three run winning streak. He disappointed in the Winter Classic, but made a quiet return to war in the Gr3 Matchem Stakes three weeks ago. He looks a horse capable of till winning plenty of races. Johnny Rockets has won 3 of his 8 starts and is our dark horse of the race. That despite having drawn near East London.
The son of Jallad never showed in a prep run behind Ice Machine, but has a solid turn of foot and the in form Glen Hatt in the irons. The third of the Snaith runners is the poorly drawn Black Minnalouse gelding Indian Hawk. He will be ridden by claiming apprentice Luyola Mxothwa and appears to have lost form recently.
Mike Bass, who has followed the Snaith example of a satellite yard in PE, saddles a quartet of runners. The topweighted of their four is the Drakenstein Stud owned Brown Penny, who showed prominently at his last start, when staying on strongly behind Ice Machine. The 7yo has a definite touch of class, and but for his weight, would be considered a serious challenger.
The Trippi colt Abercrombie must be considered the Bass stable elect and ran at Durbanville last Saturday, when pipped by Dean Kannemeyer’s smart unbeaten 3yo Speed Rocket. Abercrombie was weighted to win that race, and if the run has not taken the wind out of his sails, ranks a serious threat here. Grant Van Niekerk gets a second chance within 7 days to make good on him.
While probably one of the highest rated one time winners around, he ran a cracker for third just off Silvano’s Jet and Hot Ticket in the KZN Derby, and only needs to reproduce some of that level of effort to go close here.
Neartic Dancer followed up on his maiden victory in December with a good win, but has since lost the plot and has poor recent form. The 4yo Trippi gelding Paterfamilias has won 2 of 14 starts, but while being exposed in feature company for many of his starts, has proved a general disappointment.
Adam Marcus sends out his first Algoa Cup runner in the 7yo Fort Wood gelding, Cask, who runs in the Oppenheimer silks. Cask has drawn well and ran on strongly at his last start in an 1800m Pinnacle Stakes, to finish ahead of Run For It and only 3,15 lengths behind Ice Machine.
The local challenge includes the likes of Mitch Wiese’s Silent Partner, the Dorrie Sham trained Two Gun Kid and the Jacques Strydom runner, Gianduja. Silent Partner is an ex De Kock trained gelding, who looks to have had an excellent prep for this race. He powered on late over a far too short 1200m at his last start behind Copper Parade, and but for a 15 draw, would have been fancied here. He ran a smart second behind Distinguished in the Listed Darley Arabian on Super Saturday and could be ready to register a deserved fifth career win.
Two Gun Kid is also a former De Kock galloper. The son of Toreador has won three of six local starts, and found things too hot last time when outpaced over the 1200m. He has drawn well and won at 2000m in Gauteng. His jockey knows him and he looks a leading light amongst the local challenge.
Gianduja moved up from Paddy Kruyer in the Cape earlier this year and has come into his own at this trip in his recent starts. He looks nicely weighted and has a fellow like Astro News held at the weights. Gavin Smith’s 2013 Cup Trial winner Astro News really looks to have been weighted into oblivion here. He is coupled with the former Mike Miller runner Storm Dancer, who comes off an eight week rest out of KZN.
Trainer Alan Greeff and his recently returned jockey Greg Cheyne have hit good form recently but they will not be thrilled about the 19 draw allocated to Way Clear. The son of Ashaawes ran second in the Derby Plate over Sunday’s course and distance behind the capable Burlaine Forest and won his penultimate start over the Arlington mile. It was disconcerting to see him drop out of contention badly at his last try, and he will need to bounce right back to his best to have a chance here.
The visitors have won this race two out of the last three years, and may hold the edge. We feel True Master may have the advantage of the benefit of a previous run and he is selected to beat Abercrombie and Two Gun Kid. Silent Partner and Cask may be best of the rest, while Joey Ramsden knows what is required and definitely won’t be bringing Disco Al up for the dancing.