Igugu Class Apart

Gr1 J&B Met over 2000m on Saturday

Hores of the year, Igugu - 100% ready for the task

Reigning horse-of-the-year Igugu will be a warm favourite to take Cape Town by storm when she turns out for the J & B Met on Saturday, and the daughter of Galileo must have a terrific chance of crediting champion trainer Mike de Kock with his first success in this event since Badger’s Coast landed the spoils a dozen years ago, writes Matthew Lips.

The fact that a virus of some sort led to Igugu being scratched from her recent intended appearance in the Gr1 Paddock Stakes is one possible niggling concern, but there is surely no way that a trainer of De Kock’s stature would risk so valuable a filly in even a race as valuable and prestigious as the Met if he didn’t believe she was 100% ready for the task.

Unbeaten from six starts since chasing home Ebony Flyer in last season’s Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas in her only previous visit to Kenilworth, Igugu looked better than ever when leading throughout to run out the facile winner of a Gr2 event against females on her seasonal debut over 1600m at Turffontein in December.  The Australian-bred’s ability to make her own running should the need arise will stand in her in good stead should there otherwise be no early pace on, and the way the Met weights are structured nowadays gives Igugu an outstanding chance of adding another very big feather to her cap.

Gimmethegreenlight

Gimmethegreenlight 1st 3yo winner since 2000?

The one essentially unknown quantity in the line-up is Gimmethegreenlight, who bids to become the first three-year-old Met winner since Badger’s Coast in 2000.  The speedily bred Australian son of American Gr 1 1400m winner More Than Ready has very real stamina question marks on pedigree as he ventures beyond 1600m for the first time, but he did run on very strongly from some way off the pace when he beat Variety Club by nearly half-a-length going away in the Gr 1 Queen’s Plate three weeks ago.  Justin Snaith’s colt will again be partnered by Piere Strydom, who rode one of the races of his stellar career to win the Queen’s Plate, and Gimmethegreenlight is a big strapping colt who could well prove effective at this distance despite a pedigree which strongly suggests otherwise.  Only the race will show, but he may emerge as the one true threat to fellow Australian import Igugu if he can bring his Queen’s Plate form to the party over this additional 400m.

Bravura

Bravura  good form with blinkers

Consistent Bravura is a former Gr 1 Cape Derby winner over this course-and-distance and was running on steadily when beaten 1.80 lengths into fourth place in the Queen’s Plate.  The five-year-old has found his form since being fitted with blinkers and wore the headgear for the first time when staying on well to beat Tales Of Bravery by half-a-length in the Gr 2 Green Point Stakes over 1600m on the Kenilworth old course in November.  He meets Gimmethegreenlight on 1 kg worse terms than in the Queen’s Plate, but he has proven form over 2000m and there is every chance that he can reverse placings with his younger rival.  Whether he can reverse the 2.30 lengths beating he received from Igugu in last year’s Gr 1 Vodacom Durban July is another matter, but he ought to be thereabouts once again.

Tales Of Bravery
There is seldom much between Bravura and Tales Of Bravery, who finished almost half-a-length ahead of his regular opponent when placed third in the Queen’s Plate, a race in which he had finished second the previous year.  From the stable of 1996 Met winning trainer Vaughan Marshall, Tales Of Bravery is threatening to win at Gr 1 level and finished fourth in this event last season after he found himself setting the pace in a slowly run race.  He can reach the frame, especially if they again go at no great pace, but it is very possible that Tales Of Bravery is at his most effective over a shorter distance than this.

The Apache
The Apache has excellent form and will enjoy this galloping track after he ran on well to be beaten a head by Smanjemanje in a Gr 3 over 1800m on the sharper Turffontein inner course earlier in January.  Gavin van Zyl’s colt doesn’t know how to run a bad race and was also doing very good late work when he finished 2.15 lengths fourth behind Igugu in the July, but he now has to meet the ace filly on 2.5 kg worse terms and is clearly left with plenty to find.  He can reach the frame, but a win seems too much to ask. He tries blinkers for the first time.

Smanjemanje
Smanjemanje has improved since he was gelded and has won two Graded events from four starts as a gelding, but he faces The Apache 1.5 kgs worse off than when he beat that rival in a close finish recently and will need to do a good deal more to have a serious chance on these terms.

Chesalon & Super Storm
Chesalon has the worst of the draw to deal with, but the Met has been won from that draw before and although he seems a rather unlikely winner he could be one to fill a place.  From the Mike Bass stable which won this race four years in a row between 2007 and 2010 (admittedly with only two different horses), Chesalon will appreciate a step up in distance after he was beaten almost six lengths into fifth in the Queen’s Plate and he ran on very well to beat a few of these rivals in the Gr 2 Premier Trophy over 1800m in December.  He’s a doubtful starter, having had a set-back in the two weeks leading up to the race. Stable companion Super Storm bids to give veteran Cape Town jockey Karl Neisius his long-awaited first Met success, but the chances of that happening look remote to say the least.  As useful as Super Storm is, he has regularly shown himself to be a few lengths inferior to many of these rivals and on merit ratings he has more than a mountain to climb at the weights.

Ilsanpietro
Igugu’s stable companion Ilsanpietro is very consistent and can boast a second place finish behind Dancewiththedevil in the Gr 1 Summer Cup over 2000m at Turffontein already this season.  He was found wanting late when 2.25 lengths fifth behind Smanjemanje on the Turffontein inner course last time, but that probably isn’t the ideal track for the Brazilian import and he should enjoy the Kenilworth new course.  He can race from or near the front and can stay on to fill a minor place perhaps, but he does appear to fall short of what it will take to win on these weight terms.

Lion In Winter
Lion In Winter is a past Gr 2 winner, but on the whole he is one of those horses who looks good when winning minor events but is almost invariably found out when stepping up into Graded company.  He can do better than when beaten more than ten lengths in the Queen’s Plate and he meets Chesalon on 1 kg more favourable terms than when running on to be beaten two lengths in the Premier Trophy, but stable companion Bravura still appeals as the likelier threat.

Run For It
Run For It finished a very good third as a three-year-old in the Met last season, but he has been frustrating since and has not won a race since October 2010.  He was very disappointing when he faded after racing handy and was beaten more than eight lengths in the Gr 2 Peninsula Handicap over 1800m earlier this month, finishing with only one behind him.  This stable companion to Gimmethegreenlight would have some sort of a chance on his fast finishing third in the Premier Trophy, where the sedate early pace did him no favours and where he got to within 1.25 lengths of winner Chesalon.  He is worth considering for minor money, but he doesn’t make much appeal as the likely winner.

Astro News
Astro News is the other of the two three-year-olds in the race and he was having only his second local start when he finished very strongly to be beaten less than half-a-length by Polar Bound in the 1800m Peninsula Handicap.  He was drawn wide when he made no show in the Gr 1 Cape Guineas on his first Cape Town appearance and he is going the right way, but this is a much tougher race than the Peninsula Handicap and a win from Greg Ennion’s gelding would come as more than a mild surprise.  The fact that Peninsula winner Polar Bound was never even nominated for the Met could tell a story as to how strong that form is considered to be in some quarters.

Beach Beauty
Beach Beauty pulled hard early in a race run at an absurdly slow pace and was then outpaced late when beaten half-a-length by Thunder Dance in the Gr 1 Paddock Stakes from which Igugu was scratched.  She may be considered to have been an unfortunate loser in the circumstances and she is a very consistent filly who could possibly fill a place over a distance which suits her perfectly, but even the 2 kgs which she receives from Igugu doesn’t seem likely to give Beach Beauty the edge over her great contemporary.  Emerald Cove won the Paddock Stakes last season and was also not helped by the funereal pace when she finished a below-par 2.80 lengths fifth behind Thunder Dance this time around.  She has however been very comfortably beaten by the likes of Igugu and Beach Beauty on several occasions, and does not appeal here.

Cask & Fabiani
Cask doesn’t seem very consistent and weakened after racing handy when only seventh in the Peninsula Handicap.  He is better than that, but even at his best je would appear to be a forlorn prospect at the weights.  Fabiani has clearly had his problems and was reported to be striding short when beaten some 13 lengths in the Queen’s Plate.  His most recent win came against vastly weaker rivals in a Listed event at Arlington in December and not for nothing is he rooted at the bottom of bookies’ betting boards for this race.

About The Pace
The Cape Crawl is unfortunately always a distinct possibility around Kenilworth, and the million dollar question then is who will set the pace.  Ilsanpietro can be an effective frontrunner with loads of stamina and may ensure that they go at a proper clip, but Igugu is thoroughly capable of dictating matters if all else fails.  She was an almost six lengths winner of the Gr 2 SA Oaks over 2450m in yielding going last season, so she won’t lack for stamina if the pace is strong, and she can race from the front if the pace isn’t on.  Either way she should be able to bring her true form to the J & B Met, and she is rather unoriginally selected to win.  Gimmethegreenlight, Bravura, The Apache, and Chesalon could follow her home.

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