Back The Bridge!

Hollywoodbets Gr1 Gold Challenge - a thriller looms

Eric Sands’ 6yo Rainbow Bridge looks a generous bet with the sponsors at 8-10 to successfully defend his title in Saturday’s 50th renewal of the R1 million Hollywoodbets Gr1 Gold Challenge at Hollywoodbets Greyville.

At first glance there doesn’t seem much more to say other than ‘back the bridge!’ in the prestigious weight-for-age mile and the joint second richest graded race on the African continent.

Watch how Rainbow Bridge won the Hollywoodbets Gr1 Gold Challenge last year:

After running third behind subsequent Vodacom Durban July winner Do It Again, this will be the third consecutive year that the son of Ideal World will line up in the final July ‘golden ticket’ event and all the indicators suggest that 8/10 is generous.

Flashback to 2020 – Rainbow Bridge wins the Hollywoodbets Gr1 Gold Challenge under Warren Kennedy (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

And it’s not that the handsome gelding has no competition.  Quite the opposite in fact!

Saturday’s  field is loaded with horses who have plundered graded races, including the current L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate champion, Dark Jet and defending Vodacom Durban July winner, Belgarion.

One might reasonably ask – ‘how then is Rainbow Bridge 8/10?’  The answer lies in a combination of what Rainbow Bridge has done, and what the others have not.

Jet Dark indeed won the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate. But that was five months ago and he hasn’t run since.

There he beat Rainbow Bridge, and at the time it looked like the mile appeared not to aid the Rainbow Bridge cause.  But the Sands’ champion’s sizzling win five weeks ago in the 1400m IOS Gr2 Drill Hall Stakes has firmly swung the pendulum.

Belgarion beat Rainbow Bridge in the July, but he had a 5 kg advantage for the 2,75 lengths victory.  Since then they have met 3 times at level weights, with that score going 2-1 in favour of Rainbow Bridge. In similar vein to his stablemate Jet Dark, Belgarion also hasn’t run since the Met at the end of January.

The racing rule of thumb is that the big races are hard to win unless everything has gone right, and therein lies the rub. On the flipside, things have gone very well for Rainbow Bridge.

Let’s not forget the rest – but they all raise some questions.

Chimichurri Run has only won up to 1200m. Cirillo has never won a mile and is held by Rainbow Bridge, Belgarion and Jet Dark. Trip To Africa seems outclassed here and hasn’t shown Gr1 clout yet.

Sovereign Spirit, a Dynasty out of a Jet Master mare, flashed up for third in the Met finishing four lengths behind Rainbow Bridge.

But at a 100-1 it was a freak showing, with no explanation from any races, before or since.

The champion is safely wrapped in his blanket after his 2020 victory (Pic- Candiese Lenferna)

The 3yo’s Seeking The Stars and Catch Twentytwo racing for the first time in his new colours, look to be in the 1600m contest more as a result of being doubtful stayers, than anything else.

But with only nine and ten outings under the belt, respectively,  it would probably be foolish to disregard them.

The Marshall yard is in dashing form and Seeking The Stars was two lengths off in the Cape Guineas and 0,60 lengths behind Daily News winning stablemate Linebacker in the KZN Guineas.

Catch Twentytwo’s last 4 runs include beating Sunday’s Golden Horse third-placer MK’s Pride, 0,25 lengths and 2,25 lengths  behind the rampant Malmoos, and 1,90 length behind Rainbow Bridge in the same IOS Drill Hall Stakes that makes Rainbow Bridge an 8-10 shot on Saturday.

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