High summer seems to agree with Covenant. A winner of three Graded races during this period last season, the four-year-old returned to winning ways at Kenilworth on Monday when she landed the Sceptre Stakes over 1200m for a second season in a row. A filly with a pedigree to die for, her value rockets with every return visit to the winner’s enclosure and she’d be at home on any stud farm in the world, especially as she already has a Gr1 win under her belt, writes MATTHEW LIPS.
Now known as the Graham Beck Memorial Sceptre Stakes in honour of the great owner and breeder who passed away some 18 months ago, this WFA event for fillies and mares attracted a field of nine and it was sole three-year-old Trinity House who started as a marginal 22/10 favourite ahead of 5/2 second choice Covenant, with State Blue most favoured of the balance at 15/4.
Covenant was waited with a few lengths off the early action as Captain’s Emblem showed plenty of pace ahead of Flaming Alice, with Trinity House in striking distance of the leaders as the stable companions Fragrant Al and State Blue also showed quite prominently. Trinity House came forward to stake her claim inside the last 300m as Captain’s Emblem began to weaken, with Barcelona Winter also trying to get into the action over on the inside. Covenant was however starting to make eye-catching progress wider out, and inside the last 200m always gave the impression opf travelling stronger than anything else.
Trinity House is as game as they come and once again gave it her everything, but she was simply outgunned in the final stages by the year-older Covenant, who ran on well under Karl Neisius to probably win a tad more cosily than the margin of around three-quarters of a length may imply. Barcelona Winter had every chance before taking third prize, but was simply not good enough for the two that beat her. State Blue didn’t really quicken under pressure and finished fourth, running below her best and failing to repeat what she had shown when finishing half-a-length ahead of Covenant (who admittedly may have needed the run) in the Gr2 Southern Cross Stakes over 1000m won by Val De Ra a month earlier. Fragrant Al had the best chance at the weights, at least on official ratings, but she was never really in the hunt.
Covenant followed up on success in this race twelve months ago by capturing the Gr1 Majorca Stakes over 1600m on J &B Met day, and seems likely to adopt the same route this year. A talented and consistent filly, she is right back to her best now following two starts since a 20 week absence and she more than likely will turn up again in KZN during the winter. Another Graded race win or two before she retires to the paddocks is certainly not out of the question for the Mike Bass-trained Covenant, but Trinity House deserves plenty of respect for her performance and she paid leading three-year-old filly Princess Victoria a genuine compliment with this effort. Trinity House had finished second behind that star in her last two starts coming into Monday’s race, but still remains the only filly to have ever beaten Princess Victoria and that looks pretty good on the old CV even if it was achieved when the Princess was making her debut.
Covenant is a daughter of former champion sire Western Winter out of the Stakes winning Bush Telegraph mare Secret Pact. A full sister to London News, Secret Pact is also the dam of champion three-year-old filly Promisefrommyheart and of Listed winner Secret Heart, who was exported to the USA and who in turn is the dam of Gr2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Pluck. Covenant was bred and is still owned by the Varsfontein Stud, and has now won seven times from 15 starts for R977 662 in stakes.
.Sceptre S. (SAf-G2) (1/2) Kenilworth, South Africa, January 2, R200.000, 1200m, turf, good, 1.10.43 (CR 1.09.90). 1 – COVENANT (SAF), 60.0, b f 4, Western Winter – Secret Pact (SAF) by Bush Telegraph (SAF). Owner & breeder Varsfontein Stud (SAF); trainer M W Bass; jockey K Neisius (R132.609) 2 – Trinity House (SAF), 56.5, b f 3, Captain Al (SAF) – National Vixen (SAF) by National Assembly (CAN) 3 – Barcelona Winter (SAF), 60.0, b f 4, Western Winter – Barcelona Baby (SAF) by Golden Thatch (IRE) Margins: ¾, 1½, 1 Also ran: State Blue (SAF) 60.0, Dance With Al (SAF) 60.0, Captain’s Emblem (SAF) 60.0, Flaming Alice (SAF) 60.0, Fragrant Al (SAF) 60.0, Street Runner (SAF) 60.0