Gr2 Victory Moon Stakes over 1800m at Turffontein on Friday night
Perana could not unfairly be described as an enigmatic sort and he has not won a race for precisely one year since he gave a memorable display to win the Victory Moon Stakes at Turffontein, but a very good latest effort suggests he could be on the comeback trail and he returns to the Johannesburg venue on Friday night to defend his title in that 1800m event on the standside course, writes Matthew Lips.
It could be a successful title defence at that, for while it remains very difficult to trust Perana with anything like the faith one would show in an expensive Swiss watch he surely does have the raw ability to win the race named after a former stable companion of his for a second time.
Perana’s exploits in the Victory Moon a year ago lit up the Internet as racing forumites rushed to pour praise on him for the manner in which he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, having very nearly thrown the race away by doing an almost right angle turn and practically coming to a complete stop around 400m out before coming back to collar Mother Russia in the dying strides. Mike de Kock’s charge has shown rather spotty form since, but gelding Perana may have done the trick and he was running on well when two lengths third behind Soul Master in a set weights event over 1800m on the inner course last month. That was Perana’s first start for 19 weeks, so he looks very likely to have come on with the run and could reverse the form even though meeting Soul Master on 1kg worse terms.
Soul Master has an undeniable chance, though, at least if he can confirm the return to form he showed when winning that race. He has disappointed at times, but could now be set to fulfil his potential and in fairness he probably found 1450m too sharp when not beaten far behind Pierre Jourdan in a blanket finish on his seasonal debut in September. He has won twice from two starts – one at Listed level – on the standside course and he warrants considerable respect even from a wide draw.
Ice Axe is very consistent and probably will enjoy going back up in distance after winning two successive set weights races over distances around 1400m in KZN. He had to work hard to collar his frontrunning stable companion Scotwood in a four runner race at Greyville ten days ago, but Scotwood enjoyed the run of the race and form in races with such tiny fields can be deceptive. Charles Laird’s gelding looks up to this sort of task on the form he showed
against the likes of The Mouseketeer, Il Saggiatore and Castlethorpe last season, and he is nicely in here purely on merit ratings.
Berry Blaze was disappointing on her recent seasonal debut after a five month lay-off, where she could only stay on for a well beaten third behind easy pillar-to-post winner Carey’s Qui in a set weights race over 1450m on the Turffontein inner track. She can improve considerably on that, especially over this longer distance, and she did show excellent form as a three-year-old last season bearing in mind that she only celebrated her true third birthday in May. The Danehill Dancer filly must have plenty of talent to be able to achieve what she did when effectively still a 2yo and a much better effort could
easily be in prospect here.
Dual Gr 1 winner The Apache starts for the first time since he ran on well despite shifting out under pressure to beat his well weighted stable companion Bulsara by a neck in the Champions Cup over 1800m in sticky going at Greyville. Gavin van Zyl’s colt is no doubt being aimed for the Gr 1 Sansui Summer Cup thirteen days after this event and even at his best would have it all to do under 62 kgs. He is ultra consistent and was almost still improving at the end of the KZN winter season, so it would be unwise to lightly dismiss a horse of his sheer class, but it is surely going to take a mighty effort from him to win this. Stable companion Seal returns to the venue of his emphatic success in the Gr 1 Derby in April, having had only one disappointing start over 1600m during the KZN campaign. He seems to be a much better horse over considerably more ground than this and he was beaten two lengths by Soul Master on fully 7.5 kgs better terms than these in the Listed Derby Trial over 2000m here in April. He has a very deep draw on top of all that and others appeal as being
much more likely winners.
This distance also seems inadequate for Ilsanpietro, who has never won over less than 2000m, although he did look better than ever when running away with a Listed handicap over 2450m on his seasonal debut late last month. He is one of the very staying types around, but one has to have serious doubts that he can win a race of this type over 1800m under 60 kgs. Stable companion Rudra may also be up against it with 60 kgs, but the former Summer Cup winner will at least be distance suited and would have his prospects enhanced should there be some cut in the ground.
Another who’d relish softer conditions is Regal Ransom, who won at Gr 1 level in very soggy going over 2000m at Turffontein in May 2010. His form since has been erratic to put it kindly and he has not raced for five months, but he is capable of a strong late charge when he’s firing on all cylinders and the continued good form of the Sean Tarry stable entitles him to at least an each way shout. Stable companion Aslan is another past winner of the Summer Cup who bounced back to prominence when capturing the Gr 1 Gold Cup over 3200m in yielding going in July. He has not shown much from two starts so far this season, and while the farcically slow pace at Clairwood completely ruled him out of contention on the first occasion it is harder to glibly sweep his subsequent 14.75 lengths drubbing behind Soul Master under the carpet. He probably is at his most effective over rather more ground these days, and others are selected here.
Sage Throne put up his best effort to date over 2400m, finishing first in the Gr 2 Gold Circle Derby last June only to have the race taken away from him after an objection. He did beat a subsequent Listed winner comfortably over 1950m earlier that month, and the yielding ground may have been an excuse for his last two moderate displays, which include a 6.5 lengths beating from The Apache in the Champions Cup. It is possible that Sage Throne needs good ground and he might improve here if he encounters such conditions, especially as he meets The Apache on no less than 8.5 kgs better terms than in the Champions Cup. A return to form would leave Colin Scott’s gelding with a realistic chance, but the race distance remains a concern.
Sidera is lightly raced and presumably must have had more than her fair share of problems. She has raced only four times since winning a Gr 3 for three-year-old fillies over 1600m in November 2009, where she hung out very badly but still proved too strong for a field which included subsequent Gr 1 winner Spiced Gold back in third. The fact that she is owned by Klawervlei Stud and has remained in training instead of being sent off to join the farm’s enormous broodmare band would surely suggest that she is considered capable of still building on her race record to date, and the Galileo mare may still have needed a run when she weakened after setting the pace over 2200m in her most recent start just more than a month ago. This is a much tougher race, and others are preferred, but Sidera could be set for improvement and with De Kock one can never be too quick to dismiss any Feature race candidate’s chances.
One more representative of the champion trainer’s yard in this line-up is Dark Wind, who found 1400m too short when making to show to finish 11 lengths behind Kavanagh on his seasonal debut in October. Dark Wind showed plenty of decent form last season, and while his four successive wins between August 2010 and February of this year came against mostly much weaker opposition than this he ran well in defeat twice thereafter. He got to within one length of subsequent Gr1 winner Happy Landing in a Listed event over 18900m in March, and then finished a commendable 4.5 lengths behind English Garden in the Gr 1 SA Classic over this course-and-distance. He’d not by any means be without a chance under 51 kgs if he comes back to that kind of form, but his comeback effort didn’t tell us much and any potential backer of Dark Wind on Friday would be taking a stab in the dark really.
Smanjemanje has been gelded since a fair effort behind subsequent dual Graded race winner The Mouseketeer in a restricted Feature over 1600m at Clairwood in June. He has run well in defeat in some decent races throughout his career and meets Dark Wind on 4.5 kgs better terms for a neck beating over 1800m on the Turffontein inner course in February, but he has actually won only three times from 31 starts and that doesn’t really fill one with confidence. The gelding might have improved him, but he returns from a lengthy break and all things considered does not make much appeal.
House Of Wax
House Of Wax returns from a 14 week absence and beat much lesser fields than this when winning his last two starts in ordinary Gauteng winter handicaps over 1400/1600m. He could do no more than win them in easy fashion and we may not yet have seen the very best of Geoff Woodruff’s gelding, but he is untried against a field of this calibre and he has yet to race beyond 1600m. Captain Scott may be coming to form and didn’t run badly to finish 2.80 lengths fifth behind Kavanagh in a set weights event over 1400m in October, when starting for the second time after a seven month lay-off. He gets the distance and has shown very decent form against quality opposition at times throughout his career, but he is not the most reliable of performers and others are preferred.
That leaves the reserve runners and stable companions, Gold Onyx and Roman Wall. The former has been frustrating to follow, but he was a Gr1 winner as a juvenile back in July 2010 and he had some excuses (cast shoe) when below best in the race won by Soul Master last month. Sean Tarry’s gelding could not have been an easier winner of his penultimate start over 1900m at Greyville, but he did demolish a much weaker field than this and he is steadily building up the reputation of being a course specialist at the central Durban track. On best form he’d have a chance here, but he has let the side down so many times that one has to be very cautious about his prospects. Roman Wall looked very well weighted in a plate race but could only finish third behind Top Mark over 1450m at Clairwood last month. He was returning from a 17 week rest and could have improved, but he has been beaten a long way by the likes of Sage Throne and Dark Wind before and like so many others is surely flattered by his proximity to The Apache in the bunched finish to the Gr1 Daily News 2000. His overall form doesn’t suggest he is a likely winner here.
About The Pace
Despite the large field there is no obvious strong frontrunner in the field, and the pace may not be all that hot unless a stable companion to one of the more fancied runners is in here to do the leg work. Perana won this race from the front last year, but has rarely been ridden that way since and seems very effective with hold-up tactics. Smanjemanje has raced from up front at times, as has Sidera, while it is not impossible that Ilsanpietro will try and capitalise on his stamina by setting a decent gallop. It remains difficult to visualise how the Victory Moon Stakes will pan out and finding the winner is far from easy either, but we’ll go for Perana to build on the promise of his last run and select him ahead of Soul Master, Ice Axe, Berry Blaze, and The Apache. Dark Wind is not to be overlooked, while Sage Throne should be afforded a second glance if the going is on top.