Trainer Mike Azzie may not be impressed by the statistics, but KZN trainer Kumaran Naidoo returns to the scene of one of his unique personal triumphs on Saturday. Naidoo saddled a terrific trifecta in the 2012 running of the R150 000 Listed Hampton Handicap and returns with the same trio this year.
As we reported a year ago, the Hampton Handicap took pride of place on the day with the Emerald Cup being washed out to the following Thursday. But the weather couldn’t dampen Naidoo’s spirits, with the 7yo Be Assured rocking the boat on a weather interrupted afternoon, with a gutsy win at 33-1 from the 6-1 Cape Winter and Furious Dancer in third.
But the 1000m sand dash won’t be a cakewalk for the Durban man this time around. Mike Azzie was apparently mildly cheesed off that Yukon Gold did not make the final cut in the Emerald Cup,and rightfully so we feel. But such is the workings and ways of life that things sometimes work out for good reason. He already has a powerful Emerald hand anyway, and the same applies here.
Piere Strydom rides Yukon Gold, and the son of Winter Romance must be major factor over the minimum trip in this event. His four runs on the sand have shown that he has some fair ability on this surface.
He never got into the action in the Gr3 August Stakes when running over seven lengths behind the smart Here Comes Billy, but caught the eye at his previous outing when lumping 61.5kgs when streaking clear to beat Escape Clause in an MR 88 Handicap over the Vaal 1200m. If repeating that effort, he will go close here.
The Kum Naidoo horses have not really put things together since grabbing the spotlight in the Hampton last year. Be Assured has had four runs since his Hampton win, and reserved his best (and only earning effort) when running a fair second to Maji Moto over the course and distance last time out. He is 2kgs better off with Maji Moto here and has the advantage of a refreshed and newly returned from leave, Anthony Delpech.
The 2012 second placed Cape Winter has only had two runs in the ensuing year. The son of Western Winter finished fourth and 1,80 lengths behind Maji Moto at his last start. He is a kilo better off with his stablemate Be Assured on that run, but his soundness must be in question.
The six year old Dancing Duel gelding Furious Dancer has had seven outing since his Hampton third place, and, like his stablemates, ran in the Maji Moto race last time. He finished worst of the three when running eight lengths off, but drops 3,5kgs in the weights. He appears past his best.
Trainer Leon Erasmus sends out a quartet, headed by the Imperial Stride gelding Nice Stride, who ran a fair fifth to Maji Moto last time. The 4yo has taken the quantum leap from turf to sand in good style and scored a cracking course and distance victory beating Across The Ice in August.
First choice stable jockey Sherman Brown rides the Bezrin gelding Benbow, who produced a flat run on turf last time out. At his previous sand start, he ran a nice fourth to Nice Stride, but is now a half kilo worse off and may battle to conjure up the same enthusiasm as his younger stablemate.
The course and distance specialist Maji Moto has excellent recent form, and has won 2 of his last 3 starts in excellent style.The 7yo Malhub gelding comes in with a handy galloping weight and will be running at them late under is excellent apprentice rider. Power Jet makes up the Erasmus foursome, and while a course and distance winner, his form appears to be less inspiring than his stablemates.
He was well beaten on the turf last time by De Var Hyt and should be a lot more comfortable on this surface. The Sean Tarry trained Polar Moon is a 7yo Victory Moon gelding, who has won six races in a career that has been something of a rollercoaster . He is a course and distance winner, but his last three runs have been shocking and he would be an upset winner.
Paul Peter’s Winter’s Song has won 4 races on the Vaal sand, of which three were over Saturday’s course and distance. The 5yo Western Winter gelding has had only won run since running way off the winner in last year’s Hampton. In that outing on 12 September, he was unsighted when finishing 14 lengths off Maji Moto.
He will need dramatic improvement to feature, and his fitness and soundness are obviously under. Brett Webber’s Australian bred Hang Fire is showing flickers of a form return and stayed on well enough at his last few starts. At his penultimate jump he ran a 175 length third behind Maji Moto and now meets the Erasmus gelding on 4,5kgs better terms for under a two length beating.
Mike Azzie will be keen to grab the consolation prize here with Yukon Gold, and with Strydom up the gelding could have the edge over Maji Moto. Anything could run third and Be Assured could produce a rattle to grab that cheque.