Graduation Day

Gr1 Premier's Champion Stakes - Greyville, Saturday

Black Toga – Talented youngster faces first real test

It is no secret that trainer Corne Spies thinks the world of the talented Victory Moon colt War Horse, and he only appears to have Anton Marcus and Vaughan Marshall standing in the way of what looks an outstanding Gr1 double in the offing.

Beyond the top two, the R500 000 Gr1 Premier’s Champion Stakes looks a rather open affair. Caught up in the adrenaline rush of a sensational Golden Horseshoe winning moment three weeks ago,  the enthusiastic Spies, who is known to wear his heart on his sleeve,  was already speaking openly about an assault on the 2013 Vodacom Durban July.
He now sends his colt out on the next step of what we hope will be the realisation of that long-term dream, but as we know, there is always good reason to keep one’s feet firmly on the ground and take one race at a time in this tough game.
One only has to ask trainer Mike Azzie, who celebrated when he led in the 2011 Premier’s Champion Stakes winner Potala Palace. A year down the line, the talented son of Singspiel has won a solitary Graduation Plate and dropped away into the shadows.

Battle Ready

War Horse recorded a third win from five starts

War Horse recorded a third win from five starts, when he put a smile on Spies and jockey Jeff Lloyd’s faces when bounding clear to win the Gr1 Golden Horseshoe by 2,25 lengths on July day. He showed his preference for the 1400m there and if his trainer’s astute judgement is half accurate, then we will see even better things from him over the extra 200m of Saturday’s race. This Listed 1100m winner has the blood, being out of a good racemare who won from 1800m to 2600m and he looks to have all the attributes of a really very smart racehorse in the making.
Besides being in the same age and capability category as his July day rider, Felix Coetzee will know how best to overcome War Horse’s 10 draw, and it is not difficult to imagine that the connections are already planning their acceptance speeches and how they are going to invest that healthy first cheque.

Superheroes
But the ominous shadow of Superman and a trainer called Vaughan Marshall looms large and threatens to spoil the Spies party.
Pick Six punters will naturally be including the powerful Marshall coupling of Black Toga and Act Fast. The former is a very smart Klawervlei Stud-bred son of Black Minnaloushe, who has won 3 of 4 starts, and just looks to be getting better every time he sets foot on a racecourse.
A colt who can set his own pace, he won his last outing by 4 lengths and besides crushing the De Kock challenger, Lehaaf, might not have beaten much – but he won readily.

The Listed Gatecrasher Stakes winner has been brought along slowly after making a winning Greyville 1400m debut in mid-April and could show us just how talented he is on Saturday.
The Marshall outfit have enjoyed a glorious season overall, and they are also represented by the Silvano colt Act Fast, who ran Black Toga to 0,25 lengths when both were making their debut. He looks more of a staying type and was narrowly run out of it again at his very next outing by the promising Kotzen runner Victory Cruise.  He then won a Scottsville mile at his next start , before fading to a fifth and 1,50 lengths behind Gray’s Champ in a 1900m.
Black Toga must obviously be considered the stable elect at this stage, but Act Fast looks a fair sort and could be dangerous if allowed to bowl out in front.

Glen Kotzen’s Fly Me Over was only 4 lengths off the action in the Golden Horseshoe

Blanket
The Golden Horseshoe formline throws a blanket over the likes of Shimmer And Shine, Love Struck, Fly Me Over, The Hangman and Sabadell.  This is also the order in which this quintet finished behind the victorious War Horse, and save for a few excuses and draw reversals, the Spies galloper surely has most of them held again.
Shimmer And Shine is one that could well get closer than the 2,25 deficit of the Golden Horseshoe. The Ennion gelding has been dealt a kinder card by the draw gods, whereas War Horse has not been as fortunate this time round.
Shimmer And Shine was cramped late after jumping from a wide draw in the Golden Horseshoe and ran on strongly after War Horse had stolen a well-time march. Top heavyweight jockey Bernard Fayd’herbe will find it a lot easier going from a 6 draw here though and the son of Kahal must go close again.

Love Me Do
Beyond War Horse, Paul Lafferty’s Love Struck emerged with plenty of credit following his superb effort in the Golden Horseshoe. The connections have, probably wisely, stuck with jockey Raymond Danielson who made plenty of use of him from the widest draw there, before he got tired late to run a smashing 3,20 length fifth – that after leading the charge inside the 400m marker. Love Struck runs from the 1 draw on Saturday, and if maintaining that level of performance, could go close. His previous two feature efforts, admittedly over the sprints, were not of the highest order though.
Glen Kotzen’s Fly Me Over was only 4 lengths off the action in the Golden Horseshoe,and this son of Jet Master is definitely much better than his current form would suggest. He won his maiden on debut in fast time at Scottsville over 1200m and then ran on well in the Gold Medallion at his next start.  He appeared to have every chance last time, and weakened after showing prominently. He may need to be ridden with more restraint if he is to get the trip here, but has natural acceleration and looks a factor.

Gallows Hill
Piere Strydom adds some confidence to the chances of Sean Tarry’s The Hangman, who was 5,25 lengths behind War Horse last time. He had all kinds of excuses, including having to switch twice and having his rider lose a stirrup iron and from a 4 draw must have a strong earning chance in this event.
The Geoff Woodruff yard are not in the greatest of  form, and Sabadell finished 10,40 lengths off in the Golden Horseshoe. He looks unlikely to reverse that, even with the plus factor of a good draw.
Mike De Kock sends out the lightly raced Argentinian-bred Lehaaf for Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum. After winning his maiden in fine style, he was rather comprehensively slammed by Black Toga at his last start. In his defence, he was cut into there, and has scope to better himself.
Duncan Howells’ King Of Torts won his maiden over the Scottsville mile in effortless style from the front at his last start. This half-brother to unlikely Vodacom Durban July past winner Dunford has unfortunately drawn wide out, and we don’t know how good he really is yet. Veteran Cape jockey Karl Neisius rides him and will give him every chance, but he looks held by Act Fast on their last meeting.
Gavin Van Zyl sends out the charismatically named Heavenisaracehorse, after a recent Gauteng maiden win. After only two starts, he has done little wrong and Van Zyl has made a name for himself as a top-class Group race winning conditioner. The King Of Kings gelding could be just about anything.

Handy Gap
If the official handicapper’s ratings are to be believed, then War Horse should beat Black Toga. And while we are not arguing the fact that the Spies colt has all the credentials, we must bear in mind that these youngsters are improving from one start to the next – and we haven’t seen Black Toga stretched at this level yet.
Then Shimmer And Shine and The Hangman look promising, and will both be flying late to capitalise on line-fluffing and off days amongst the top rankers. There are others who warrant consideration, and for exotic bet punters this may be a race to go with just two horses, or hope for a bomb and chance the field.
Inevitably, if War Horse wins, then it will all look so easy after the event. Let’s not forget that he has been there and done it and has the Gr1 t-shirt already.

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