Competitive Handicaps are the order of the day in midweek with the highest rated being a MR94 affair at the Vaal on Thursday. Sprinters from the stable of Dominic Zaki have been showing good improvement of late and represented by Paella here, he could be on the mark again, writes Steve Furnish.
Mainly campaigned over further in his earlier outings, it took Paella nine starts to shed his maiden tag, but since reverting to sprinting in August he’s won three from eight. Although consistency has not as yet proven to be his forte, this son of Toreador has shown flashes of real ability and he couldn’t have been more impressive when winning in slightly stronger company over today’s course and distance last time out.
Stable companion Oh Driscoll was thought good enough to contest the Gr1 Golden Horseshoe as a juvenile, but since returning from a break in April last year, he has only managed to find the winner’s enclosure once in thirteen outings.
Sharing top weight with Paella is the Caesour colt Veto. Equally effective on sand, Brett Webber’s charge has rarely failed to fill a place in the Trifecta, and he did gain his latest win on today’s surface in similar company over today’s course and distance. He can be forgiven his latest effort when up in class over shorter on sand. Expect a bold effort.
The highest rated of trainer Michael Azzie’s two runners is Valor, and with Anthony Delpech on board one would expect him to be the stable elect. Usually one to race up with the pace, this speedy son of Var has come to hand nicely in recent starts. He was beaten fair and square when third four lengths behind Paella last time out, but he is now 4kg better off at the weights with that one here and that must make him a runner.
Also representing the stable of Michael Azzie is Legislature. This son of National Assembly had the likes of Magico behind him when a runner up in the Gr3 Protea Stakes as a Juvenile, but since returning from a break of thirteen months, he’s failed to finish better than fifth and having been well beaten in that race won by Paella last time out, he is perhaps best just watched for now.
One of three runners from the stable of Sean Tarry, Hors D’oeuvre has a nice turn of foot and I feel sure that we haven’t seen the best of him yet. This lightly raced son of Labeeb has not previously raced over a trip this short though, and coming off a six month break here, he is in all probability just having a run.
More often than not seen racing on sand these days, the veteran Mr Top is without a win in eighteen starts now and still racing off a mark higher than when gaining his latest success way back in Jan ’10 he is not easy to fancy.
The best of Sean’s runners on the day then will probably be Always Al and he does have Robbie Fradd in the irons. As with Hors D’oeuvre, this lightly raced son of Al Mufti has given the impression that there is more to come and he has gained two of his three career wins thus far over today’s distance. Equally effective in soft going, Always Al showed good speed when third over further last time out and with plenty of rain forecast in the lead up to this event he has to be a serious runner whatever the conditions.
The 5yo Edict has shown good improvement during the course of this season and he has gained three of his six career victories over today’s course and distance. He was only beaten a neck after being baulked for a run 300m out last time out and clearly still on the up, should be involved again.
As with Legislature, Hidden Rave was close to the best of his generation as a youngster. He too has since been laid off for over a year though. He has nonetheless shown flashes of his old ability, most notably when fourth in the listed Golden Loom Handicap in November.
Rated some 20 points higher on sand than he is on turf, Leon Erasmus’ charge has not won on today’s surface since May ’10. He’s in fair form at the moment, but a win here does look unlikely.
Made Of Magic
After a spell in the wilderness, St John Gray’s charge won two in a row earlier in the season, but since then he’s failed to finish better than ninth in four starts.
The two seven year olds Strike Paradise and Regal Runner had some very useful form to their names a couple of seasons ago, but both have had over twenty outings now since last gracing the winner’s enclosure.
On The Bench
The sole reserve runner is Acrisius. He was only a length behind Edict last time out, but he is yet to score over a trip shorter than 1400m and he hasn’t found the winner’s enclosure over any distance in his last 18 outings.
About The Pace
With plenty of speed amongst the fifteen going to post a good pace looks assured. Paella impressed when winning last time out and if repeating that effort he will not be easy to beat. There is a chance that the going will turn up soft here though and with Paella having failed to finish better than third in five starts in those conditions, it may pay to side with Always Al should that be the case.