Turffontein will be lit up tonight – by both floodlights and the quality of the racing. A number of top-class horses will be turned out for a Pinnacle Stakes, a MR 104 Handicap and a competitive MR 98 Handicap, providing an autumn evening treat for racing fans.
The Pinnacle event, Race 5, is a 1000m sprint down the straight and it could come down to a battle between champion trainer Sean Tarry’s hardy six-year-old speedster Trip To Heaven and the nippy four-year-old filly Green Pepper, from the yard of Johan Janse van Vuuren.
With Tarry finding his best form after a moderate few months by his standards – not to mention stable jockey S’manga Khumalo bouncing back full of verve after an extended injury lay-off – one inclines towards Trip To Heaven. He can be relied on to be in contention, even under the hefty 61.5kg he has earned from seven career victories and a merit rating of no less than 120.
Green Pepper carries a whole 4kg less, with Randall Simons up top, and has shown a lot of cheek in her recent outings after a long break last year. However, she is a hot one and has been known to blow her chances before the off. Also, she might just lack the power to overcome this field.
And a strong field it sure is, with the aforementioned duo definitely not the only ones to consider.
Mike de Kock’s lightly raced Australian-bred three-year-old Naafer looks like he’s strengthening up nicely and in November claimed the scalp of top sprinter Bull Valley. The one negative is this Lonhro colt is returning after a break of nearly five months and might be on a sharpening-up exercise ahead of a bigger prize next month.
De Kock and Janse van Vuuren both have second strings to their bows in this race – Sir David Baird and Cathedral County respectively – and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see either of them in the winner’s circle.
Race 7, a MR 104 Handicap over 2000m, sees another batch of smart performers bumping heads. De Kock-trained Secret Captain has lost his last two races by narrow margins and looks primed to make it third-time-lucky from the inside draw with Callan Murray in the irons.
One of those defeats was at the hands of Dawn Assault in the Drum Star Handicap and the combatants clash again here. Dawn Star is a kilogram worse off with Secret Captain for that victory, so the tables are likely to be turned.
Pilou and Top Shot are both consistent and worth consideration, while Crowd Pleaser, something of a rising star last winter, is making a return after a break and could pop up.
Value for Trifectas and Quartets could come via Gone Baby Gone who is coming to form and will gallop under a feathery 52kg.