Fever Tree Handicap over 1400m at Greyville postponed from Tuesday to Wednesday night
Heading up another busy program in midweek is the non-black type Fever Tree Handicap. Thirty three runners were originally nominated for the event, but surprisingly only eight will go to post, writes Steve Furnish.
Shouldering top weight is the Michael Roberts trained Mike’s Choice. A model of consistency, this son of Tamburlaine fully deserved his back to back wins over today’s course and distance last autumn. He was given a break after running fifth in the Gauteng Merchants in November, but he did then show his well being when only 4,8 lengths off the unbeaten Unannounced on his return to action last month.
Excuse My French
The only coupling in the race is that of Duncan Howells who saddles both Excuse My French and Castle Ross. A course and distance winner, Excuse My French has gained both of his successes at this circuit and after beating the likes of Run For It and Royal Zulu Warrior over the tonight’s trip last April he was thought good enough to contest the Gr2 KZN Guineas. Somewhat surprisingly, he’s failed to find the winners enclosure in six starts since and having been reported as not striding out in his penultimate outing there has to be concerns. He did show his well being when a runner up last time out though, and the booking of Anthony Delpech does catch the eye.
Stable companion Castle Ross has only managed two wins from 26 outings and on that would seem to be in his place in the handicap. He has been keeping good company of late though and having run up to his best rating in each of his last three outings, he is clearly at the top of his game.
Another runner at the top of his game right now is Coffee Sheik, and significantly he is still improving. Wendy Whitehead’s charge has gained all five of his wins over 1200m and is yet to race over further. He does usually race up with, or very close to the speed though and he has won at this circuit. He should be right there.
A winner of three of his last four outings, Bay Route has gained five of his six career victories at this circuit. Those five successes were all achieved over 1600m and he is usually seen out over further than they race here. At his best from the front, this son of Silvino did shed his maiden tag over 1400m though, and clearly still improving has to be a serious runner.
Glen Kotzen’s charge has been a little in and out since gaining back to back wins over today’s distance at the Scottsville inner track in the spring. He would undoubtedly have a shout if at his best, but interestingly, he has only made the frame once in four starts at this circuit.
Gavin Van Zyl’s charge has won four from nine since relocating to Natal and three of those successes were gained over tonight’s course and distance. Another found at his best when up with, or close to the speed, Wild Type had excuses having been out at the weights with many in a pinnacle event last time out and now back in handicap company looks sure to be a factor.
Although rarely out of the Quartet, the ultra consistent Mr Harry is without a win in nine outings now, and he does come off a short break. He had been keeping good company prior to the break though, and he did only finish a neck behind Coffee Sheik on 5,5kg worse terms than they meet here when fourth in the KZN Chapter Challenge over 1200m in his penultimate outing.
About The Pace
Although just eight go to post there is plenty of speed in the race so a good pace looks assured. Strong frontrunners are not easy to peg back at this circuit and that makes this a very open and dangerous race. The improving Coffee Sheik gets the vote, but not with the greatest of confidence.
The only 3yo in the field is Amanee, Mike De Kock’s charge also has the highest merit rating which she obtained when winning the prestigious Gr1 Thekwini Stakes over 1600m at this circuit in July. She’s not been seen out since and with stable jockey Anthony Delpech aboard a runner for Duncan Howells in the race one has to have concerns. This daughter of Pivotal is more than likely be prepared for the forthcoming Natal season, but she has done well around today’s distance and having plenty of scope for further improvement she cannot be ignored.