All the glitz and glamour of the Summer Cup may now be behind us, but once again we have some very exciting prospects on show this weekend. The Gr1 Fillies Guineas tops the bill at Kenilworth on Saturday, but creating just as much interest will be the seasonal debut of the flying filly Val De Ra in the Gr2 Southern Cross Stakes, writes Steve Furnish.
Beaten just once in ten outings, the speedy Val De Ra is at her best over 1000m. Indeed, she’s won all six starts. In gaining back to back Gr1 wins in her two most recent outings she has proven herself to be a top sprinter and she does hold the best of her opposition here on those runs. She’s been off the track for six months since winning the Gr1 Fillies Sprint in May and that has to be a bit of a concern. Her stable has been in good form since arriving in Cape Town for the season though, and with the weights clearly in her favour here, she should take a lot of beating here if anywhere near her best.
Rated second highest by the official handicapper is last season’s winner of this race Covenant. Mike Bass’ charge progressed rapidly after landing this event last year, winning both the Gr2 Sceptre Stakes and Gr1 Majorca Stakes. Those two successes along with her only subsequent win in the listed Sweet Chestnut Stakes in April were all achieved over further than she races today and it could be that she would prefer the extra now. That Southern Cross win was her latest over today’s distance though and she has won three from five over the trip. She too returns from a break here, but with champion jockey Anton Marcus having been booked to ride it would suggest that all is well. Strictly by the book she is held by Val De Ra as she was beaten 2,5 lengths on 1,5kg better terms by Dennis Drier’s charge in the Fillies Sprint. She was running on at the finish in that event though and she is now playing at home so as to speak.
Marginally the highest rated of Justin Snaith’s four runners is the National Assembly mare State Blue. She was at the top of her game prior to a recent three month break picking up both the listed East Cape Breeders Stakes and the Gr3 Champagne Stakes over 1200m here at Kenilworth. Usually one to run on from off the pace, she’s more often than not seen out over further. She has won twice over the minimum trip though and significantly, she was finishing strongly after being hampered when only beaten a length and three quarters by Covenant in this race last season. State Blue may well have needed the outing when a 4,45 length tenth in the Merchants last time out and sure to strip fitter here, should be involved in the finish.
Dance With Al
The Captain Al Mare Dance With Al has finished behind State Blue in each of her two most recent outings, but there is very little between them. She’s also won twice over 1000m, and interestingly, one of those successes was victory in this race back in 2009. Clearly suited by further nowadays though, Dance With Al is without a win since beating the boys in the Merchants a year ago. She would undoubtedly be thereabouts if at her best, but having not raced over this short a trip in the past twelve months, she’ll more than likely find this too sharp now.
Sparingly raced since making a winning debut, the Lake Coniston filly Lake Drawsko has been coming along nicely and usually one to race up with the speed, she could well be at her very best over today’s trip. Lake Drawsko has her third run after the rest here and further improvement looks sure to be forthcoming. She does now take a significant jump up in class here though and at the weights will do well to make the frame.
Making up the quartet of runners from the stable of Justin Snaith is the most lightly raced runner in the field Comtesse Dubois. One of just two 3yo’s in the event, this daughter of Count Dubois showed real potential in her first three starts as a juvenile and since returning from a four month break in September she’s won two from two, both over today’s distance. Comtesse Dubois could still improve considerably in this her third run after the rest and with Richard Fourie taking the ride it would suggest that a big run is expected.
After shedding her maiden tag at the fifth attempt, Vaughan Marshall’s charge has progressed quickly and has now won four from twelve. Those successes have all been gained over 1200m though and interestingly, this will be her first outing over the minimum trip. She can still improve, but held by Lake Drawsko on her latest outing, and out at the weights to boot, she clearly has a very stiff task here.
Usually very quick into stride, Mike Stewart’s charge can normally be found at the head of affairs early on and must be a fun horse to own. She’s as honest as they come, but she has only managed to hold on to the finish in three of her twenty four starts and now considerably up in class and badly out at the weights to boot here, she cannot be seriously fancied.
As with Captain’s Emblem, Joey Ramsden’s charge will be racing over 1000m for the first time here. She showed promise early on in her career, but she has been well beaten in each of her two outings since returning from a seven month break in October and having been not persevered with in the one and reported as coughing in the other, she is best just watched for now.
As well as Nova Zembla, trainer Joey Ramsden is also represented by the 3yo Captain Al filly Princess Alberta. She progressed quickly in her first season and after winning a Juvenile Plate she went on to land the East Cape Fillies Nursery. She was clearly below best when running down field in each of her two subsequent outings in Cape Town features last season though and having again finished down field on her return from a six month break just three weeks ago, she is another who is perhaps best just watched here.
About The Pace
Amongst plenty of candidates for the role of front runner one would normally expect to see Varushka at the front. In a race where a brisk pace is assured though, even she will battle to match the gate speed of Dennis Drier’s charge. The classy Val De Ra is clearly best in at the weights here and should keep her unbeaten record over the distance in tact without any anxious moments.