Justin Snaith's promising four-year-old will start the big race as a winner of six of eight starts, included graded races.
Another room in the stable complex is often under-estimated: the admin office. Trainers spend a good part of their days behind a desk and a computer screen – sometimes playing games, true, but also plotting their horses’ futures.
Many a champion horse has risen past equally-talented rivals due to astute choices made by a man or woman scrutinising fixture lists and entries.
Justin Snaith didn’t become a champion trainer just by galloping his horses on picturesque Blouberg beach. He put in the hours drawing up detailed campaigns for each of his scores of charges.
A good example is Belgarion, a promising four-year-old who Snaith identified early on as a Durban July candidate. So cleverly has Snaith placed the son of Dynasty that he will start the big race as a winner of six of eight starts, included graded races, but carrying a relatively light weight for such an impressive CV.
This past Saturday, Belgarion won his July preparatory race impressively, rallying from a boxed-in position on the Greyville turn to head decent opposition in the Grade 2 WSB 1900.
Belgarion had his merit rating raised from 113 to 119. The handicappers pointed out that the horse had, in fact, run to a mark of 122 but “specific race conditions” did not permit a greater than six-point increase to the winner’s rating.
“As such the handicappers had no choice but to cap Belgarion at 119,” reads the official report, with just a hint of chagrin.
Well-researched, smart moves have got a top-class prep run into the horse and familiarised him with the tricky Greyville track, but kept his MR at least three points below what is should be. So, the gelding will carry a feather-light 52kg in the July instead of 54kg or more.
On dismounting, winning jockey Anton Marcus commented that Belgarion was “way, way under the radar”.
Not for long, as bookmakers slashed his odds to 7-1 third-favouritism for the July – with stablemate and two-time July winner Do It Again easing slightly to 10-1. The latter will lug top-weight of 60kg – and there’s no way Snaith can dodge that, given the champ’s past glories.
In their report on the 1900, the handicappers explained that “…fourth-placed Crown Towers was the best line horse to use and, as such, his rating remains unchanged on 109”.
They went on: “The race conditions also allow no increase to the ratings of placed horses and, accordingly, runner-up Tristful remains on 109 despite achieving a mark of 112.”
Ironically, Tristful, still among the July hopefuls but languishing at 150-1 in the ante-post odds, might miss out on the final field – though MR is not the sole measure for the selection panel.
Other WSB 1900 runners had their MRs trimmed: Eyes Wide Open from 116 to 115 and Camphoratus from 111 to 110; while Pack Leader remained on 111. The latter two are now marginal for selection.
Another Snaith July entry Miyabi Gold, who, on the same Greyville card, won the Listed East Coast Cup over 2,000m, remains unchanged on 115 and could make the July line-up if she isn’t aimed at another feature race on the big day.
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