A weight for age contest of the highest order, the Gr1 Majorca Stakes is usually won by a top sort as the recent winners Mother Russia and Dancer’s Daughter will attest. Eleven go to post this time around and with three of them having made the journey from Gauteng, a mouth watering contest awaits us.
Best in at the weights is the Rock Of Gibraltar mare Gibraltar Blue. One of two runners from the stable of Mike De Kock, the flexible Gibraltar Blue has proven to be a very powerful front runner on her day. She’s won two of her four starts over a mile, but she is yet to win at Gr1 level over any distance, and she could well be at her absolute best over shorter. Third in this race last season, Gibraltar Blue has drawn very nicely in gate four here though, and with regular partner Anton Marcus now back in the saddle she has to be a threat again.
The one I like best from the stable on the day though is the 4yo Welwitschia. A winner of four of her seven starts to date, this daughter of Oasis Dream showed real promise during her first season. Indeed, after running on from the rear to take third behind the all conquering Igugu in the Gauteng Fillies Guineas, she went on to run a very creditable second to the champion Dancewiththedevil when adopting similar tactics over today’s distance in the Gr1 Empress Club Stakes. She’s come to hand nicely this season, her only defeat in three outings coming when taking on the boys in the November Handicap. Behind at weight for age, Welwitschia is not as fairly treated at the weights as she would appear here, but she does on the other hand have enormous scope for natural improvement. She learned to race handy when winning with a ton in hand last time out and has to be a very serious runner here.
Highest rated of the locals is the Justin Snaith trained Ebony Flyer. A daughter of champion sire Jet Master, Ebony Flyer won her first three career starts in impressive fashion and so it was no surprise to see her deep in the red when beating the now legendary Igugu by a length and a quarter in the guineas .After finishing a three length third to Mother Russia in last season’s Queen’s Plate though, Ebony Flyer was scoped and it was found that her breathing was not correct. Indeed, she was partially paralysed on the one side of her passage and was unable to take in the amount of oxygen that she needed. The problem was found to have worsened when arriving in Durban for their season and it was then decided that she should have a wind op. She won well when having the weights in her favour in each of her first two starts after returning from a nine month layoff in October and again appeared to be heading for the top. She was taking on top class males when beaten fair and square in each of her two subsequent outings and now well weighted, and back against her own sex, she looks sure to be involved.
Dance With Al
As well as Ebony Flyer, trainer Justin Snaith is also represented by the Captain Al mare Dance With Al. Without a win since getting the better of the boys in last season’s Gr2 Cape Merchants, Dance With Al is more often than not seen out sprinting. Sixth in this race last season, Dance With Al is yet to win beyond 1200m, but she has run some very promising races over a mile, most notably when third in each of the last two runnings of the Gr1 Garden Province Stakes. She has clearly been below best in each of her last three outings though, and on that is alone is not easy to fancy here.
Making up the trio of those from out of town is the Dubawi filly Happy Archer. After rounding off a tremendous first season with victory in the Gr1 Thekwini Stakes over today’s distance back in July ’10, Sean Tarry’s charge looked to be a top sort in the making. She battled to find her form after being given a four month break, but she did then come to hand nicely in Natal and again rounded off the season with a Gr1 success over today’s distance. Although without a win thus far this season, Happy Archer has returned from a similar break in much better form. She has her third run after the rest here and should be thereabouts if now at her peak.
The Western Winter filly Covenant went from strength to strength at this stage of the season last year and was completing a very smart four timer when successful in this event. Equally effective over sprint distances, Covenant has twice run Val De Ra to 2,5 lengths since then and is clearly up there with the very best of her generation.
She will no doubt have needed the outing when third to that champion filly on her return from a five month break in December, but then back on the same path as she followed last year she did appear to be right back to best when winning the Gr2 Sceptre Stakes for the second successive year last time out. Mike Bass’s charge has her third run after the rest here and any amount of improvement must put her in with a serious chance of completing another memorable double.
Also representing the very powerful stable of Mike Bass is another daughter of Western Winter Croc Valley. Rarely out of the frame, Croc Valley has been a tremendous servant to connections and she is at her best around today’s distance. Since finishing fourth in the Fillies Guineas back in 2009 though, she’s found the going a bit tough at this level and out at the weights here she clearly faces a very stiff task.
A winner of four of her nine outings to date, Yogis Govender’s charge has silently been progressing very nicely and although she has more often been seen out over shorter, she has already been successful over today’s distance. At levels, she was only two lengths off Ebony Flyer when returning from a short break in October, and she did then show further improvement in our book when beaten 2,2 lengths at levels by Covenant in the Gr2 Sceptre Stakes last time out. She should be thereabouts again.
Since finishing down field in two of her first three outings, this daughter of Silvano has been ultra consistent and as with Barcelona Winter, she is still steadily improving. Her stable have been in tremendous form of late and although she does look well held by Ebony Flyer on their two meetings earlier in the season, she too should be thereabouts.
In command of a very nice turn of foot on her day, Piet Steyn’s charge has caught the eye running on best of all on a number of occasions, most notably when only beaten 1,1 lengths by Trinity House in the Fillies Nursery last season, and when third to State Blue in the Gr3 Champagne Stakes on her seasonal debut. She had only managed one win prior to picking up a novice event over today’s distance on the old course in November, but she has since then been beginning to fulfill that earlier promise. She showed real guts and determination when getting up late to beat the very talented Beach Beauty in the Gr3 Victress Stakes over 1800m here in her penultimate start and taking into account the dreadful pace, she can be forgiven her fourth placing in the Gr1 Paddock Stakes farce last time out. Expect a bold effort
After beating Princess Victoria on debut back in January, the Captain Al filly Trinity House went on to win four in a row and amongst those successes was the Gr3 Fillies Nursery, and the listed Fillies Sprint. Princess Victoria has proven herself to be a champion filly since then, but Trinity House did run her to just a length and a quarter in the Gr1 Fillies Guineas in her penultimate start, and she too is clearly up there with the best of her generation. She was only picked off late when a runner up to Covenant last time out and now 1,5kg better off at the weights with that one, she must hold some kind of a chance.
About The Pace
With a number of candidates for the role of front runner, the pace should be on here. Gibraltar Blue looks the most likely to lead them into the straight and if at her very best will take some pegging back. As with Ebony Flyer though, Welwitschia has shown real potential and behind at weight for age she can still improve plenty. She gets the vote.