We used to consider the eLan Gold Cup the final leg of our Grand Slam. The big races in South Africa were always the Summer Cup at Turffontein, the Met at Kenilworth, the Durban July at Greyville and finally the Gold Cup, also at Greyville.
However, the Gold Cup was demoted from a Grade 1 to a Grade 2 event last year and somehow that has taken a lot of the gloss out of the race. Right now the only Grade 1 race over 2400m and upwards is the SA Derby at Turffontein but that is restricted to three-year-olds. I would hope that in the near future we look at re-establishing an open Grade 1 race for stayers, preferably over 3200m.
The weather has been playing havoc with this meeting over the past few years as once again it has had to be delayed. It was due to be run today but has been moved until tomorrow and hopefully the rain stays away so we don’t have to delay it any further.
Mike de Kock saddles five runners and as he has a number of genuine stayers he is likely to ensure the pace is a decent one. That will certainly have implications because a hard-run race will only suit those who genuinely see out what is equivalent to two miles and those who are 100% fit.
That could pose a problem for me because I ride Ovidio from the Justin Snaith stable and he has only had one race since winning the Reserve Stayers race over 2800m at Kenilworth at the end of January. He ran in a Pinnacle Stakes over 1400m at Kenilworth on 25 June and although he did well to finish fifth, just 4.50 lengths behind Blarney Bay over a distance too short, I’m not confident it was enough to bring him to his peak for a race like the Gold Cup.
Kingston Mines, who ran third in the Reserve Stayers, is 1.5kg better off and has proved his fitness with three runs since then. He is weighted to go very close and he is not even the best of the De Kock runners.
So in my opinion I believe Ovidio would be lucky to run a place.
The problem with the De Kock runners is that they are so close that I cannot separate them so I will go with Cape Speed to win this. As a three-year-old he gets a 3.5kg weight-for-age allowance but on Monday he turns four and that allowance drops significantly. That puts Dean Kannemeyer’s runner in a very strong position. He has not tried the distance but his form is good and if he stays he has to be the runner to beat.
My next selection is Helderberg Blue and then Balance Sheet, who finished second in this race last year. With Mike Bass retiring after this meeting it would be great to have him win a race of this nature.
My best ride on the day is undoubtedly Zodiac Ruler in the Grade 1 Premiers Champion Stakes. He has won both of his starts impressively and is a worthy favourite. Unfortunately he does tend to lose ground at the start but hopefully he will get over that. If he jumps a bit better we will be able to sit closer up and that would give him more of an advantage.
If everything goes according to plan he could quite easily be a banker. However, you have to remember that these two-year-old are improving fast so even a horse who ran behind him last time could be progressing at a faster rate.
Today racing is at Turffontein on the Inside track and there are some very difficult legs.
Race 1 is for Maiden Juveniles and experience counts. Komeshans Flight could win this if she can overcome her wide draw. There has been money for first timer Smiling Blue Eyes so watch the betting.
Race 2 is the start of the BiPot and I ride Just A Gigolo which I make my best ride of the day. Even though he has raced a number of times and has not won, this is not a strong field and he has a good draw. As a result he could be a BiPot banker. I have no doubt he has a good chance but I wouldn’t rush out and take the 6-10 on offer as he has had 17 starts and hasn’t been able to win a race.
In Race 3 I make Gina Ballerina my Place Accumulator banker. She has the highest merit rating with the bonus of being drawn well. The fact Pippa Shortsock, who has a bad draw, is her danger makes me believe Gina Ballerina will be very hard to beat. If you’re not comfortable banking her you can add Golden Memories who has a claimer up.
Race 4 is a weak Maiden Plate over 2000m but Silver Sage is quite lightly raced. He has soundness issues and a wide draw but he holds everybody else on form. The rain during the week has to be in his favour. He is a horse worth taking a chance on and banking in all bets.
I ride Featherflight but he is held on form. I am hoping for a place but a win would be great.
Race 5 looks a tricky Fillies Handicap. My selections are Tiger Flame, Angelic Appeal and She’s A Looker. As the form seems very close you could quite easily include four runners in the PA. For the Pick 6 go with as many as you can afford.
I ride Featherfoot who has not raced since November last year and is not sure to stay the distance. I would be delighted with a place.
Race 6 is another difficult handicap race where we could easily go quite wide. But obviously as I have to try and make the PA and Pick 6 affordable I’ve cut it down to two horses – Pacific G, and my value bet, World Domination. World Domination has had some really bad draws but now, with the bonus of a good draw, back on the Inside track, a falling merit rating and has a 2.5kg claimer up it all adds up to a huge advantage.
Pacific G has the strongest form and a good draw is in his favour.
Race 7 is another tough race to make a selection but Post Grad has to be my first pick. He has a good draw over this trip and some good form. I will back him up with Mr Balboa and Movie Man in the Place Accumulator.
I’m riding Royal Master who after his last run has travelled all the way to Kimberley and then back again. We were beaten by War Games and we have the worst of the draw. We’re hoping to place in this field.
For the Pick 6 add as many as you can afford.
Race 8 is another difficult handicap but I have cut it down to Apple Crumble and Woza Madoda. They should be good enough for the PA. For the Pick 6 add in Zen Master, who is lightly raced and has pole position over this course and distance which is very important.
Race 9 is yet another tricky handicap but for the PA I have come down to Prince Of Orange, Le Clos and In The Cruise. If those three are not good enough for the Pick 6, the field will apply.
PIERE STRYDOM’S BEST BETS:
NO 1 GINA BALLERINA
NO 7 WORLD DOMINATION