The first feature of the 2017/18 racing season is a low-key one in all respects. Only seven runners line up for the Wedgewood Handicap at Fairview on Friday.
The High Chaparral mare Princess Varunya tops the SP ratings at her first run for Gavin Smith in the Eastern Cape. The former Kumaran Naidoo charge rattled off four wins on the trot early on before being considered good enough to go for the Gauteng Guineas. She failed there, but did subsequently manage a fair fourth in the Gr1 SA Oaks behind Juxtapose. Her KZN form has tapered negatively in recent months and she should enjoy the more sedentary climes of the PE arena.
The National Emblem mare Sanctuary is one of three runners from the Alan Greeff and a very decent sort at best. A winner of four races, she has not proven she stays when trying the trip previously and frankly looks stronger on the polytrack surface. Putting a line through her last run, she must have a decent chance of making the frame.
The lethal combination of Justin Snaith and Richard Fourie team up with Northern Ballet, a very capable Silvano mare who stays every inch of this trip. She beat a reasonably decent bunch of hardknocking males over 2500m at Kenilworth three runs back and will strip fit after being slow out and running in midfield last week.
Ideal World is the boom stamina sire at the moment and her daughter Pirangi must be included off her handy galloping weight. Her two most recent wins were on the polytrack but her turf form is competitive and she is another worth considering.
The tough Judpot mare Crackpot has her 44th run – she has won 7 of them – and carries top weight in the small field. This consistent galloper ran third behind Beataboutthebush in the Listed East Cape Paddock Stakes at her last run and ran a decent third in mixed company at her only previous shot at the 2400m. The family have shown ability over the distance and if she gets a reasonable pace to race off, must be a serious contender.
Third of the Greeff trio, Another Night has run two modest races against stronger opposition after showing fair form over shorter. She needs to show she can find the 2400m but on breeding suggests she could have it in her.
Second of the Snaith runners, Tiffindell tries more ground after a fair effort in the Winter Oaks when sixth and just 3 lengths behind Whose That Girl. She shed her maiden (her only win to date) over 1400m but comes in with a handy galloping weight of 52kgs and could be the value bet – despite racing under sufferance.
There isn’t a lot to choose between the merits of the seven that are carded to line up. Crackpot is all heart and seldom runs a bad race. Princess Varunya is the only contender with remote Gr1 form. Sanctuary and Northern Ballet are capable. It probably makes sense to lump the field if the budget allows.