What Odds Igugu?

Gr1 Woolavington 2000 at Greyville on Saturday

Igugu - very short priced favorite

Igugu has towered head-and-shoulders above every other three-year-old filly over distances further than a mile this season and only seven of her contemporaries have had the audacity to take her on in the Woolavington 2000 at Greyville on Saturday. Widely tipped by many pundits to be the next winner of the Vodacom Durban July, Igugu will be racing at Greyville for the first time as she bids to emulate the 2002 feat of her stable companion Ipi Tombi, who won the Woolavington en route to victory on the first Saturday of July, writes Matthew Lips

It amounts to a masterful display of stating the obvious to point out that Igugu is the obvious selection for the Woolavington, where she promises to start as one of the shortest priced favourites in a Gr 1 contest ever.  The daughter of Galileo made history as the first filly ever to win Gauteng’s Triple Tiara when she won the three constituent Turffontein races by a combined margin of precisely 20 lengths, over distances varying from 1600m to 2450m, most recently landing the Gr 2 Oaks by 5.75 lengths in a strung-out finish that was more befitting of the Grand National than a Classic on the flat.

All three of those wins came on soft or yielding ground, and while never knows in this era of changing climates it is probable that she will encounter quicker going on Saturday.  This scarcely seems to be any reason for the slightest concern as Igugu won twice on good ground early in her career, and if there is no pace on early she is quite capable of making the running herself.  Igugu led almost throughout when she won the Gr 1 SA Classic by more than ten lengths and a slightly more pressing concern may be that she now races on a much sharper track than Turffontein.  It is quite possible that Greyville will suit her a little less, but she can afford to run below her best and still beat the field which opposes her in the Woolavington.  The same probably isn’t true of the July, but that is a story for another day and in any case Mike de Kock’s filly could prove to be just as deadly around here as she is at the Big T.

Igugu’s stable companion Berry Blaze looks to be improving quickly now, as befits a filly who only celebrated her real third birthday in early May.  She has been in fine form in two Greyville appearances since arriving in KZN, drawing clear easily to win a set weights event over 1400m and then running on very strongly despite shifting inwards under pressure to be beaten half-a-length by Beach Beauty in the Gr 2 KRA Fillies Guineas.  She is almost certainly a better horse now than when beaten 11.5 lengths into third place behind Igugu in the SA Fillies Classic, but again one doesn’t need to have spent years at university to point out that it will still be extremely difficult for Berry Blaze to reverse that form.  However, it is probably just as banal to state that she will get closer than 11.5 lengths to her stablemate this time around, and Berry Blaze can prove to be second best.

Emerald Cove ran well below her best on her KZN debut in the Fillies Guineas, where she was admittedly drawn wide and weakened in the straight to finish more than six lengths further behind Berry Blaze in eighth place.  She was returning from a 15 week absence and she is fully entitled to have come on from that run.  Her earlier form included a defeat of Flirtation and other high class older females in the Gr 1 Paddock Stakes over 1800m at Kenilworth in January, where she ran on gamely to win what had been something of a slow-run race which worked out perfectly for her.  She subsequently finished two lengths fourth behind Covenant in the Gr 1 Majorca Stakes over 1600m and is clearly a very smart performer.  She should not be very far away if she copes with this first attempt at 2000m, but she finished 5.5 lengths behind Igugu in the Gr 1 Cape Fillies Guineas won by Ebony Flyer last December and Emerald Cove seems flattered by a merit rating which is only three pounds inferior to Igugu’s.

Barberton Daisy is consistent and made a good start to her KZN campaign when running on to finish four lengths second behind Alinga in a Listed handicap over 2000m at Clairwood a fortnight ago.  She was returning from an 11 week rest and may even have improved with the run, but while she must have a reasonable place chance she will need to do a good deal more to win.

So will White Mischief, who was ridden from further off the pace than usual when she finished about three lengths further behind Barberton Daisy at Clairwood and who probably is better than that bare form suggests.  She led throughout when she beat Alinga by 1.5 lengths in another Listed handicap over 1800m at Scottsville two starts ago and has every chance of reaching the frame if ridden prominently this time.

Las Ramblas races for the first time since she finished a remote second behind Igugu in the SA Fillies Classic.  She failed by half-a-length behind subsequent Gr 3 winner Lady Magpie over 1750m on the Scottsville inner course at her penultimate start and is another with a realistic place chance, but Berry Blaze is entitled to have made the greater improvement since the Fillies Classic and can reverse the 1.25 lengths beating she received from Las Ramblas that day.

Six Blue Notes was staying on well when she finished a close fourth behind Bet On Blue in a rather mundane set weights event over 1400m at Greyville in May.  She is not at all sure to stay 2000m, though, and is well held by both Igugu and Emerald Cove on her nine length beating in the Cape Fillies Guineas.  Cherry On The Cake tries blinkers for the first time and these will need to have a miraculous effect on her after she finished all of 27.5 lengths behind Igugu in the SA Oaks.    Her only win came in a very ordinary Greyville 1600m maiden last July and she seems an improbable threat here.

Igugu could well find herself attempting to make all the running in a race which would otherwise be most probably run at a slowish tempo.  She can put her proven class and her proven stamina to good use and is a pretty straight forward selection to record a fourth Graded Stakes win in succession.  Berry Blaze, Emerald Cove, Barberton Daisy and White Mischief could be the ones who will get nearest to her.

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