SA Oaks – Pace Could Be Hot Favourite’s Undoing

'War Of Athena will have to be a freak to win it'

It’s going to be war! With twelve runners between them in the Wilgerbosdrift Gr2 SA Oaks at Turffontein today, trainers Paul Matchett and Paul Peter will be going in with two very different tactical plans. One wants it fast, the other is looking for something more sedate.

Matchett’s bargain buy Act Of War daughter War Of Athena (now at 3-10) is looking to join the hallowed ranks of past Tiara princesses Igugu (2011), Cherry On The Top (2013) and Summer Pudding last year.

With Malmoos in the male cloakroom, Saturday’s SA Derby Day meeting at Turffontein promises a feast of racing action.

South Africa’s most popular travelling trainer Zietsman Oosthuizen arrived at Turffontein just after 17h00 on Thursday afternoon after a close on 14 hour road trip with his feature duo from Fairview in the Eastern Cape.

“I left on Thursday as I was worried about the long weekend traffic on Friday,” Ziets told the Sporting  Post on Friday evening.

He has stable flagbearer, and recent Kenilworth feature winner, Atyaab running in the WSB Gr3 Caradoc Gold Cup, while stablemate Underthemistletoe takes on War Of Athena in the Wilgerbosdrift Gr2 SA Oaks.

Ziets’ 75-1 SA Oaks hope Underthemistletoe (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

He says they both ‘travelled beautifully’ and cautions  that the SA Oaks is much wider open than the betting suggests, adding that  War Of Athena will have to be ‘a freak’ to win it.

“Tactics will be key to it with twelve runners from two stables. Paul Matchett has two pacemakers to slow it down – Paul Peter has two to speed it up. So it’s going to be a genuine stamina test. Believe me – I’m not saying she cannot win  – she is brilliant – but War Of Athena’s finishing speed is not going to be the dealmaker as it has been.”

Ziets says that he believes that Netta and Ideal Jet are the horses to beat.

“There is a massive difference between 1800m and 2450m. Mathematically it’s 650m. But in reality they are worlds apart under true pace conditions. Everybody wants a dual Crown and Tiara winner on Saturday. It’s good for the game and for history and hype. But it’s more open than it looks!”

He reminds us what happened in the Cape in the summer when races were run at a  true pace.

“Speed is replaced by stamina!”

As for his runner Underthemistletoe, he says that she is no simple travelling passenger.

“Warren Kennedy suggested that we bring her up for the Oaks after he rode her last time. She should have finished closer there. Look, if we can run into the money, Suzette and Basie (Viljoen) and the whole team will be thrilled.”

He says that without a ticket they wouldn’t have no chance.

“We won’t know if we didn’t try and she was only 4 lengths behind Ideal Jet in Durban. Ideal Jet is 2 lengths behind Netta on collateral form. We are more hopeful than brimming with confidence. But luck and the distance are great levellers, as I have suggested. And can I just say that anytime that odds are offered, a chance exists. That’s reality – think about it!” he enthuses as he points out that his charge is 75 to 1 with Hollywoodbets.

Atyaab runs carries topweight in the 2850m Caradoc Gold Cup.

The Attie Team in Cape Town – focussed on the Caradoc Gold Cup on Saturday (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Ziets says he thought Attie was good enough to win his last start at Fairview, but had him underdone with Saturday’s race a fortnight later.

“I felt he would win. But he was a bit on the chubby side and his fitness caught him short. He is now a fit horse and is weighted to win the Caradoc Gold Cup.”

Whether Atyaab was a banker for exotic players and if he was concerned about his draw of 11, the enthusiastic horseman was adamant that he was not.

“One only worries about the draw in two cases – when you jump on the turn or when you have an ordinary jockey in the saddle. Neither applies here. Atyaab is not a banker, but you leave him out at your expense!”

The Turffontein Pick 6 is expected to reach R5 million. The first leg is off at 13h35.

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