Gr2 Fillies Nursery – Can A First-Timer Win?

Stakes winning Variometer, should put up a good performance

Gr2 SA Fillies Nursery at Turffontein on Saturday

What goes for the boys, goes for the girls: you’ll need to be a sprinter to win the Nursery. At this time of year distance suitability can often outweigh ability. As when Merlene de Lago beat On Her Toes three years ago, and Spring Clover was ahead of All Afire the next season, writes KAREL MIEDEMA.

Highest rated of the juvenile fillies is Michael Azzie’s Solarium, a daughter of champion sprinter Var and a non-winning Irish mare whose offspring includes sprinter Dazzling Heights, by Indian Ridge. The mare has stamina on her side, and is from the same female line as Trippi’s US-champion daughter R Heat Lightning. Solarium scored her highest rating on debut when winning over 1200m in January at the Vaal, by seven lengths, at odds of 14/1. She raced over shorter subsequently, well supported, not winning, and recording lower ratings. It’s quite possible that she’s not a sprinter, but that’s pure guesswork right now.

James Goodman travels from Natal with Indigo Princess, a daughter of 2000 Guineas winner King Of Kings. She won her first two starts, both over 800m early in the season. Her third start, in February, was disappointing as she finished unplaced while supported. She hasn’t raced since. Her non-winning dam comes from a speed female line – she’s by national Emblem out of a full sister to Heat And Dust, by Harry Hotspur. We’re still left with question marks – has she trained on, is she a sprinter, how good is she?

Louis Goosen’s Variometer is by Champion sprinter Var out of  an Australian mare who won over 1000m at 3, from only two starts. We assume that Variometer is a sprinter then. She won her first two starts, including the Ruffian Stakes. Her third start, on soft going over 1100m on the inside track here in the Pretty Polly Stakes was certainly not her run. She finished more than 20 lengths behind the winner. If whatever went wrong can be put behind her, and as long as she acts on soft going, then she should put up a good performance here.

Paul Matchett saddles Hidden Beauty, Maggie Thatch and Extraordinaire, the latter blinkered for the first time. Of these three the sprint-bred Maggie Thatch has the lowest rating. Extraordinaire had a slipped saddle when a length behind Variometer in the Ruffian Stakes, with Hidden Beauty, who finished lame off-hind, a head in front of her.

Hidden Beauty hasn’t raced since, while Extraordinaire took her chances in the Pretty Polly Stakes to finish fourth to Shesaclubqueen. The latter was in receipt of 3kg, so the tables could well be turned this time, if the blinkers work and the daughter of Toreador is distance suited. Her dam didn’t win, nor did the grandam, who is out of a half sister to Harry Hotspur.  We’re guessing a bit to assume she’d be a sprinter.

That leaves Hidden Beauty, who is by Victory Moon out of Hidcote Blue – a National Assembly mare who won once over 1600m but probably was best over less. Chances are Hidden Beauty isn’t a sprinter and may need more now, but that’s not written in stone.

Mike de Kock has interesting entries.

Amur Affair hasn’t been out of the first three in three starts, winning over 1200m at the Vaal late in March. She put up a career best rating third time out, when showing pace but being run out of it late over this course and distance three weeks ago. The filly is by Tiger Ridge out of Weston Fair, a full sister to Fair Maiden and Bragadaccio, and a winner over 14/1500m. She shouldn’t really be a sprinter then, and in addition her apprentice rider cannot claim in this race.

The stable’s second entry is first timer Amanee, who has the mount of Kevin Shea. Bred in Australia, she is by Pivotal out of Woodman mare Moon Is Up who is half sister to sires Kingmambo, Kitalpha and Judpot. As a 3yo the mare won a Listed race over mile in France, three weeks later going on to win a Gr3 over 1200m on softish going, and earning a career-best rating. Since Pivotal was a highclass sprinter, chances are that Amanee will be well at home over this straight sprint course. She’s bound to be better than her stable companion in terms of ratings, which will give her an excellent chance here if she’s not too green.

Of the rest, three once-raced debut winners deserve attention.

Anthony Delpech is aboard the Ferraris trained Markofdistinction, who won her only start to date over 1400m at this track. She is by Mogok out of an unraced full sister to highclass sprinter/miler Toccata, and seems likely to need 14/1600m as well. The filly should improve on her debut effort, but could find the sprinters in this field a bit too hot to handle.

Another once-raced winner is Victrixit, who won at long odds over 1000m at this track early in April. She’s by Victory Moon out of Cool It Mon who won 5 times up to 1900m (but seemed best up to a mile). Chances are that she isn’t a sprinter, and that the expected improvement may not help her to win here.

The third debut winner is Small Miracle, who made all to win hands-and-heels over 1000m at this track on the same day that Victrixit won, both races run in virtually the same time. Small Miracle is by Tiger Ridge (sire of last year’s SA Nursery winner Kavanagh) out of Elliodor mare Little Extra, a one-time winning miler from the family of Horse Chestnut. Small Miracle will no doubt be better than rated given her easy first win, but may possibly lack real sprinters speed.

Charles Laird has a single entry, the twice raced Captain Al filly Anne Bonny. She started as favourite on both starts, winning first time out, but seven lengths behind the winner in fourth place the next time. That probably wasn’t her run, and good improvement looks on the cards. The mare’s dam is Assembly Girl, a one-time winning sprinter by National Assembly. Chances are that Anne Bonny will be suited by the Nursery distance, but she’ll have to show massive improvement on her debut win to have a chance. That said, Charles Laird knows what it takes to win a juvenile feature.

This is a large field, so the pace should be a good one, and the test solid. With uncertainties hanging over our highest rated runners, we side with Mike de Kock’s Amanee to make a winning debut. Uncertainties or not, the two Var-fillies Solarium and Variometer must be taken seriously, as should Hidden Beauty if she’s fit and sound. Anne Bonny is the dark horse and could be anything.

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