Hospitality for all

Gr2 J&B Reserve Stayers over 2800m at Kenilworth

Hospitality - best weighted

A bumper field of 18 is set to face the starter in front of the Kenilworth grandstand when the J & B Reserve Stayers fills its traditional spot as the final event on Met-day at Kenilworth on Saturday.

Formerly a handicap, the 2800m contest is now run as a conditions race and a mere 2 kgs separates the top weights from those at the bottom end of the scale.  As such it appears that there is only a relative handful with a realistic chance of winning and the regular upsets which characterised the Reserve Stayers in its days as a handicap should in theory be a thing of the past.

The reality may of course be different, but there is plenty to like about the chances of Hospitality, who is narrowly best weighted on merit ratings and who has all the necessary stamina plus more besides.  A very strong and game frontrunner, Hospitality will hopefully be able to get across from his 15 draw without too much trouble and may prove hard to peg back once he reaches the lead.  Mike Stewart’s gelding looked as good as ever when he kept going well to beat Another Giant by half-a-length in a Listed handicap over 3200m in November and is now meeting that rival 5 kgs better off.  He faces Blake on 2.5 kgs kinder terms than when beaten one length in a Listed handicap over 2400m at Durbanville in October and appeals as the one to side with, but his draw is still potentially awkward in a race that jumps very close to the first turn.

Blake has fared even worse than Hospitality with the draw and jumps from barrier 16, but he could still emerge as the biggest threat despite the considerable weight turnover compared to their last meeting at Durbanville.  A model of consistency, Blake seems likely to cope with this step up in trip after he ran on well to beat Komatipoort by one length going away in a Gr 3 handicap over 2500m last month and he is facing the runner-up 2.5 kgs better off this time.  He is better treated than most by these weights, and few jockeys know their way around Kenilworth better than Blake’s regular pilot Karl Neisius.

Orchard House
Orchard House may have been unlucky not to get closer when he ran on and was beaten about 1.5 lengths into fourth behind Blake over 2500m last month.  He subsequently ran on well when he beat frontrunner Born To Be Wild by a widening 1.5 lengths over 2000m earlier in January and there is every possibility that we have not yet seen the very best of Joey Ramsden’s four-year-old.  On paper he has quite a bit to find facing Blake 2.5 kgs worse off than when they met in December, but Orchard House has the benefit of a very good 3 draw and he is not to be taken lightly even if he appears to face a stiff test at the weights.

Cree Lodge
Orchard House’s stable companion and year older full brother Cree Lodge is not very consistent and lost many lengths at the start when appearing weighted to win this race a year ago.  He never recovered, and finished 11th.  His form in five outings since as been erratic and he has finished well down the field in Listed handicaps against many of these rivals the last two times, but he has plenty of ability when he sees fit to show it and Cree Lodge could be the sort to surprise as he is again pretty well weighted on best form.

Two Strikes
Two Strikes set the pace before he finished around one length third behind Blake over 2500m in December and copes with this longer distance.  He could snatch a minor prize, but he is now 1.5 kgs worse off with Blake and he has twice this season been comfortably beaten by Hospitality on more favourable weight terms than these.  A win here is a lot to expect.  Stable companion Saluki could enjoy going back up in distance after being kept to shorter trips since a no-show effort on yielding going in the Gr 1 Gold Cup over 3200m at Greyville last July.  He ran quite well when he set the pace before he finished sixth behind Polar Bound in the recent Gr 2 Peninsula Handicap over 1800m and could be coming to the boil at the right time, but others do look much more likely winners especially on these weight terms.

Mystic Moon
Mystic Moon is weighted with a very good chance if judged solely on merit ratings and the booking of Piere Strydom for the ride is interesting.  However, Mystic Moon was reported to be not striding out in his last appearance in December and has been struggling to find form since carrying 61.5 kgs to victory in a minor handicap over 1600m in heavy going last August.  He ran well against some of the best of his generation during the last KZN season, but even on best form he would not be guaranteed to stay this distance which he tries for the first time.  He is not without a chance if things go his way, and any unseasonal rain would be a plus, but there are plenty of reasons to be wary about him.

Atyeb represents the Mike de Kock stable and looks a useful stayer in the making, but he will need to improve in leaps and bounds on his 88 merit rating to have any kind of a chance.  He faces a good deal stronger than when carrying 62.5 kgs to victory in a very ordinary handicap over 2600m at the Vaal in December and lacked extra late when a well beaten third at Gr 3 level two starts ago.  The fact that his champion trainer is bringing him here for this race counts for something, but Atyeb needs to lift his game plan if he is to be a threat.

Born To Be Wild
Born To Be Wild also has it all to do if the handicappers’ assessment of him is close to being accurate, but he has only raced six times and is entitled to still do considerably better.  He appears to have plenty of stamina and should enjoy going back up in distance after he set the pace when beaten 1.5 lengths by faster finishing Orchard House over 2000m recently.  He ran on well when winning successive minor handicaps over 2400m and 2500m before that and we have surely not yet seen the best of Billy Prestage’s Australian-sired gelding.  He has a stiff test on paper, but don’t be surprised if he proves a good deal better than his current rating.

Komatipoort, as already noted, looks held safe at the weights by Blake on last month’s form and also needs to step up markedly on his 3.5 lengths third behind Orchard House and Born To Be Wild over 2000m subsequently.  Stable companion Jeppe’s Reef may prove more of a threat, although appearing to be in at the deep end on merit ratings.  He has had two starts over much shorter distances since returning from the KZN season, but stamina is his forte and he finished a very respectable 3.25 lengths fifth behind Aslan in the Gold Cup last July.  He slammed subsequent Gold Cup second Kolkata by four lengths over the Clairwood 2500m in June and makes some appeal, but these weights really don’t do him any favours.

Golden Parachute
Nor do they favour another stable companion in Golden Parachute, who stays well but whose recent form leaves him with a lot to find to have any chance on these terms against the likes of Hospitality and Blake, to name but two.  Yet another representative from the Mike Bass stable is Thanks John, who bounced back to form when running on well to win over 1800m at his penultimate start but who then disappointed when finishing one from last behind Orchard House over 2000m.  On the plus side is that Thanks John was a winner the only time he tried 2800m and he would have a shout if he ran to his very best form, but he seems a little unpredictable these days and he can scarcely afford to be anywhere except at 100% if he is to threaten under these weight conditions.  Bass also saddles Another Giant, whose form is consistent but who we have already noted appears held safe by Hospitality (and a few others) at the weights,

Sun City and Posh Boy
The stable companions Sun City and Posh Boy are regular campaigners in Cape Town’s long distance events and the former is a dual winner of the Listed Settlers Trophy over 2400m at Durbanville.  He invariably runs on from a long way off the pace and as such his very wide draw probably won’t make a great deal of difference, but he was below best when beaten 7.5 lengths behind Blake last month and even on top form Sun City would have something to find at the weights.  Posh Boy is consistent, but he was comfortably beaten by the likes of Blake and Hospitality earlier in the season and has something to find at the weights to have a chance of reversing those results.  Still, he does stay very well and Posh Boy might be capable of a surprise from his 1 draw.

In Writing
In Writing has been somewhat disappointing of late, although in fairness he is seldom beaten very far.  He meets Hospitality on very similar terms as when beaten 2.25 lengths behind that gelding over 3200m in November and can be given some sort of a chance and is not by any means the most forlorn prospect here even if he isn’t one to follow with great confidence.  Vengence is proven over the distance, winning his only try at 2800m by fully 3.5 lengths back last March.  He meets Born To Be Wild on 3.5 kgs better terms for a 1.25 lengths beating over 2500m in December, but that form was seemingly put into context when Vengence subsequently was beaten nearly five lengths behind Blake over the same distance, and he is now 2.5 kgs worse off with Blake.  Joey Ramsden’s gelding could well improve going back over this longer distance, but he will need to do so to have a winning chance.

About The Pace
Hospitality only knows one way of racing, and seems likely to come across from his deep draw to set the pace.  Hopefully he will go along at a solid pace (which he needs anyway, with his seemingly bottomless stamina), and he could prove hard to peg back.  He is selected to win ahead of Blake, Orchard House, Cree Lodge, and the still relatively unexposed Born To Be Wild.

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