With the Cape staying form blowing hot and cold, dogmatic selections are probably best avoided. Realistically, a winning case can be made for at least half the field in Saturday’s R200 000 Gr3 Cape Summer Stayers Handicap to be run over 2500m at Kenilworth.
The Vaughan Marshall-trained East Cape Derby winner Tribal Dance is a marginal first choice.
We face the time-tested imponderable of a potential lack of pace yet again, which could turn a serious test of stamina on paper, into an extended sprint and dash in the final stages.
This is compounded by an inevitable lack of genuine depth and class in these staying races, although both Tribal Dance and In Writing are versatile solid longhaulers who can comfortably play their own tunes out in front.
Tribal Dance is the best handicapped horse in the race and the son of Tiger Dance recently won his first start for new owner, Mrs Radebe, after changing hands on the Roy Eckstein dispersal sale.
Having his first start since a third to Heavy Metal in the Listed Darley Arabian on Super Saturday, Tribal Dance coasted clear to win an 1800m Conditions Plate by 3,25 lengths.
While the likes of English Garden , Europe To Africa, Lion In Winter and Grafton Street, who ran behind him there did not exactly frank the form in the past seven days, Tribal Dance could have done little more than win.
The Gr3 Scweppes 2200 winner looks to have furnished into a handsome specimen, and may carry too many guns – even for the likes of two old staying salts of the likes of the Kannemeyer pair of In Writing and Blake.
Lonsdale winner Blake and Ladbroke’s Gold Cup winner In Writing would not be winning this out of turn, but both of their last outings were not exactly out of the top drawer..
Coming off an excellent Champions Season, which culminated in a great third to In Writing in the Gr1 Ladbroke’s Gold Cup, Blake has failed to spark in two return runs.
He ran a particularly ordinary race in the Algoa Cup when jumping from a bad draw and finishing 8,75 lengths behind Hill Fifty Four.
He did win this race last year and went on to score a double by grabbling the J&B Reserve Stayers a month later. Blake will no doubt strip a much fitter horse on Saturday, and if the PE jaunt has not taken the wind out of his sails, he must be a serious contender.
In Writing was ridden rather bizarrely off a slow pace in the Durbanville Cup last time out, and not unexpectedly showed no kick to finish out of the money.
As the winner of South Africa’s premier staying race, he goes every inch of this trip and is a classy and capable stayer, who could run them off their feet if allowed to dictate the pace.
Darryl Hodgson’s Miesque’s Approval gelding Putney Flyer travelled up to Port Elizabeth for an easy last win in an MR 90 Handicap over 2000m,
Carrying topweight and backed from 5-2 to 11-10, he beat the former De Kock-trained Dark Wind by 1,50 lengths. Putney Flyer ran on well when third to Taipan in the Woolavington, and while there is not much in it, looks a more scopy sort than the year older Jeppe’s Reef, as one example.
Greg Ennion’s lightly-raced 2011 Gr3 Winter Derby winner Nysean Bolt, has only had two starts since that great win over the classy Chesalon a year ago.
The three-time winner caught the eye when climbing all over the front-runners in the latter stages of his last outing in a MR 94 Handicap over 1800m at Kenilworth. He was switched in late and finished on the heels of the capable Brown Penny, who ran a good race behind Beach Beauty in last Saturday’s Gr2 Calulo Services Premier Trophy.
If not needing another outing to get back to fitness, Nysean Bolt may prove the joker in the pack.
Justin Snaith’s Indian Hawk has his first run in the Cape, and it is worth noting that his astute trainer is on record as suggesting that he is the kind of horse that could hold his own in any racing centre in SA.
Indian Hawk is a winner of 4 races from 20 starts from 1200m to 1600m, and actually meets Tribal Dance on 3kgs better terms than their clash in the East Cape Derby over 2400m, when he was beaten by 2,75 lengths. He won a cracker at his penultimate start in an MR 104 Handicap over a mile at Fairview, but did not show in the Algoa Cup recently.
The Settlers Trophy winner Jeppe’s Reef gets the services of top jockey Piere Strydom under just 53,5 kgs, and that is sufficient recommendation to include him in the larger quartets.
That said, Jeppe’s Reef’s last two runs were rather ordinary in small fields.
He ran last when beaten 4,60 lengths by Taipan in the Woolavington, and was then one-paced late in the Durbanville Cup when beaten 3.75 lengths to Badger Lake, who gave him kgs. The Ramsden horse failed next time out.
Stephen Page is an acknowledged conditioner of staying sorts and produced the winner of this event for two years running in 2009 (Mokaro) and 2010 (Two Strikes.) The latter also ran third in this race last year and his excellent 0,75 length second to Blake at level weights in the 2012 J&B Reserve Stayers brings him into the race.
Two Strikes ran on well for third over 1800m at his penultimate start when beaten 2,50 lengths by Hammie’s Dynasty, who received 4kgs from him. It is worrying that he was reported changing legs at his last start when not showing at all.
If well, he certainly stays the trip and must be considered.
The impressive 5yo grey gelding Born To Be Wild started his career as a rather wayward sort, and is a course and distance winner who stays well when on song. A winner of 3 of his first 5 starts, Born To Be Wild looked to have a bright future until losing his form early this year. That appears to have occurred at the same time that his errant behaviour has been remedied!
He showed a spark of form in an MR 94 Handicap over 1800m, when staying on well for third and 2,50 lengths off Brown Penny. The latter franked that effort when running a cracker when a five length fifth to Beach Beauty in last Saturday’s Gr2 Calulo Services Premier Trophy.
Mike Stewart’s 7yo Hospitality has only had two very ordinary runs this year and appears to have lost his form completely. He was also reported to be not striding out in his last run in the Durbanville Cup, which hardly engenders any confidence.
Carl Burger’s Gold Vase winner Grey Cossack is tumbling down the handicap, but while not far off at his last two starts, looks pressed in this company. It is worth noting that he ran third in 2010 behind Two Strikes, and has a longshot place chance at best.
As suggested the pace, or lack of it, will play a major role in the outcome of this event.
The near fit Tribal Dance is a versatile and top-class stayer who bumps two solid older seasoned warriors in the Kannemeyer pairing.
Both Blake and In Writing have won at the top level and could bounce back to best at any time.
Then we need to consider the chances of the unknown quantity of Snaith’s Indian Hawk, the dark Horse Nysean Bolt who runs on strongly and was touted as a star 18 months ago.
Then what about the unexposed lightly –weighted Putney Flyer putting his best foot forward?