Will the filly be able to hold off the colts? That is the question one will have to answer when deciding how to handle Race 8 at Turffontein on Sunday, a Progress Plate over 1400m on the Standside track.
If the handicappers have got it right then Bella Sonata has to be an outstanding bet. Had this been a handicap she would have been conceding no less than an additional 8.5kg to next best weighted runner Doosra.
As it stands the Gavin van Zyl-trained runner comes into this event carrying 58kg and is getting 3kg from Doosra. She has Piere Strydom in the irons and is perfectly drawn at No 2. Her last two starts were in feature races where she finished second – and in both cases behind Nother Russia.
Considering Nother Russia then went on to run a 0.20-length third behind Deo Juvente with Legal Eagle separating the pair in the Grade 1 Premier’s Champions Challenge over 2000m at this course, makes those two defeats quite outstanding efforts.
Now for the bad news. Bella Sonata has not won a race since March last year and that was at Greyville. She had a merit rating of 90 after that and it has risen to 103 without her having a won a race in 431 days.
In addition, all but one of her runs have been in fillies’ company and in her only run against the boys she could only finish ninth, beaten 5.15 lengths by Master’s Spirit over 1200m on the Greyville Polytrack.
There are concerns but Doosra, who is considered her main rival on handicap, has also not been in the best of form although he looked a little better when a 5.75-length second behind Romi’s Boy over 1200m on the Turffontein Inside track last time.
Another danger could be Zouaves, who could be better than his rating. Geoff Woodruff’s charge took a step up in class last time after winning his maiden one run earlier. He lost ground at the start and then took a while to get going on the Inside track but once in full cry raced past Raasmaal to win going away by two lengths.
He carried just 52.5kg in that race but this time he will have 58kg on his back. He is nicely drawn at No 4, however, and on the manner of his last win, is likely to prefer the Standside track. Chase Maujean takes the ride.
The balance of the field look held although Chili Con Carne must have some sort of chance if regains his best form. He faded out in the Betting World Gauteng Guineas (Grade 2) to finish 12.75 lengths behind Janoobi but was reported not to be striding out.
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