The R500 000 Gr1 Allan Robertson Championship trophy looks likely to remain displayed within the shadows of Table Mountain, with Milnerton-based trainer Vaughan Marshall holding all the aces in a powerful coupling. Selecting the winner is complicated by the facts at hand and street-corner whispers telling of explosive homework tales.
Visiting trainers have a solid track record in this prestigious 1200m race and after Glen Kotzen won it last year with the brilliant Princess Victoria, Marshall will be realistically expecting to keep the silverware in Stormers territory for another year.
The race is also the stage for a fascinating duel between three dominant sires of fillies. Avontuur stallion Var has held the edge in recent months over the likes of Captain Al and the first season player, Trippi, and the race will settle a few psychological scores on that front.
Jockey MJ Byleveld is probably the one man who could sedate and put to bed the rumours that the undefeated Valdivia’s pretty rear is walloped by her speedy grey stable-companion All Is Secret on the training tracks at home. Fact or fantasy, that’s been the word on the ground these past few weeks and Byleveld is the only jockey to have ridden the two Marshall speedballs, where it really matters or counts – on the racetrack.
And it is racecourse performance that excites us about the Var flyer, Valdivia, who appears to have all the qualities required to take over the enormous and gilded mantle of the superstar, Val De Ra, in time to come.
The facts in her favour are there for all to see and surely quite simple.
She has won her three races by an aggregate of sixteen lengths. She is one of only five contestants to have raced at this testing track. Her last win here showed that she is not just a fast-blazing fuse, but also has gears and a frightening cruising speed. Importantly, particularly as she goes through the grades, she can be set alight as and when required.
Anton Marcus rides the other Marshall boom baby All Is Secret. The grey is owned in partnership by his boss Markus Jooste.This daughter of Captain Al won her maiden at first try by four lengths on 9 February at Kenilworth over 1200m. She beat little, although the second filly, Ramsden’s She’s Got It, won next time out and was desperately unlucky not to win again last Wednesday at Kenilworth over 1400m.
All Is Secret then reappeared in the Gr2 The Debutante in KZN at the beginning of this month. She showed tremendous fight and courage and did everything but win. She was not disgraced when beaten a short-head by Straight Set, who dives into the deep-end when taking on the boys in the Tsogo Sun Medallion on Saturday. All Is Secret had excuses that afternoon too. She stumbled but ran on strongly and would have come on with the benefit of the Scottsville experience.
One name that keeps jumping out of the page is Franny. Gavin Van Zyl’s Trippi has had the world on her shoulders since long before she first set foot on a racecourse at the beginning of March. She was said to be a star and she won her Listed Ruffian Stakes debut in smashing fashion by five lengths. Next time out she won the Gr2 Pretty Polly Stakes by three lengths. At both her starts she had subsequent Gr2 The Debutante winner Straight Set behind her in second.
Franny’s next start was her three length third in the SA Fillies Nursery behind King’s Temptress. Should we be writing her off or rather look for excuses for her there?
She was slow away, probably slightly rushed and then hung and faded late. So we have the waffle in need and we know what short memories racing folk have. Richard Fourie travels from Cape Town to pilot her. We have little doubt that she will be involved with the Marshall fillies when the whips are cracking.
Mike De Kock’s coupling of Al Kindi and Lonsome Dove will be a popular inclusion for Pick Six punters, although it is quite frankly difficult seeing either troubling the top three.
Kevin Shea rides Al Kindi for the first time and as a course and distance winner, the daughter of Fort Wood must come into the picture. She won her maiden beating the Drier filly Murmering Sky, who came out and slammed her opposition by 4,25 lengths next time, before running unplaced thereafter in the Gr2 The Debutante. Al Kindi ran a fair race last time out in the Gr2 The Debutante over this track behind Straight Set and All Is Secret.
Lonsome Dove is yet another Trippi representative and has won her only start over 1000m at Clairwood at the end of April. She showed plenty of speed and cruised in, but beat nothing of obvious note. She is apparently putting in the hot work at Summerveld , and is probably the stable elect. She could be anything, but would have to be just about everything to hold Valdivia.
Counter Ridge has won two from three but did not impress when fading to finish fourth 4,60 lengths behind Straight Set in a small field in The Debutante. She is loaded with speed and may be best over 1000m- particularly against this strength of opposition.
Crowned Champion Tw Year Old filly at lastSaturday’s Highveld Racing Awards, King’s Temptress has been the off-track talking horse of the current crop of two year old fillies. The shock but impressive 100-1 debut winner of the SA Fillies Nursery will be out to prove the cynics wrong and show that her dazzling two length win was not a bolt from the blue.
She has changed yards from Coerie Lensley to Kumaran Naidoo at Summerveld and Fanie Chambers is jocked off in favour of the talented youngster Karis Teetan. That flies in the face of not scratching where it doen’t itch and Naidoo will be under pressure to deliver the goods. His yard has not had a winner for six weeks,and have had 100% more winners at the Vaal than in their home province this year.
Naidoo has only ever trained two Group winners in his career too. But it is probably fair to say that he has not exactly had the equine firepower either. If King’s Temptress is as good as she looked first time out, then Naidoo will have the opportunity to make a name for himself with her.
Dominic Zaki’s Sea Shadow is by the deceased Victory Moon, who also sired last year’s winner. She won her first two outings at the Vaal and Turffontein by an aggregate of 10,25 lengths but then blotted her copybook when running eleven lengths behind in the Gr2 SA Fillies Nursery. She shouldn’t beat King’s Temptress or Franny on that run over the 40m extra here.
Rebel Queen shed her maiden by 5.75 lengths a fortnight ago in Kimberley beating the sweetly named Baby Tjoklits. That was on the sand and her only run on turf was an awful effort when cut into and finishing 24 lengths behind Grecian Frigate on debut. She is a half-sister to the smart new stallion Rebel King and a red light may well flicker when we record the fact that she went off at 15-2 on debut. But this should be just too much for her.
Corne Spies also has first-timer Trip To Eden in the race. The third daughter of stallion Trippi in the field, she will have to be pretty forward and quite talented to have a shout here. After all, the likes of King’s Mistress, who won first time out in Group company only come by every decade or two. It is worth noting that Trip To Eden’s dam, The Eden Project, won four races from 1000m to 1200m and jockey JP van der Merwe gets off Rebel Queen to partner her.
Valdivia is the only filly in this field to have earned her potential champion tag. Franny isn’t miles behind her as a Group winner too, but has been solidly beaten. Then All Is Secret is catching pigeons at home and hasn’t done too badly on the racecourse either. These three will win many races between them in time to come and look likely to fight it out.
The aspect of the questionable Gauteng form will be answered at the same time and we will find out how good King’s Temptress really is.
Despite the urban legend and the Gauteng reputations, we suggest Valdivia will be too hot for the whole lot.