It has been almost a year since trainer Gary Alexander and Classic Illusion’s connections celebrated the mare’s third career win but she has run well in defeat a number of times, with a third placing behind Cherry On The Cake over this course and distance in March reading particularly well, given she has not won in three attempts over this trip.
Two months later, Classic Illusion finished a 1.50-length third behind Secret Obsession in a 1600m feature on the inside track.
She was a neck and 0.50 lengths respectively ahead of Bluroute (1kg worse off) and Go Indigo (0.5kg worse off) and also had those fillies behind her in the race won by Ilha Bela. Both meet her on better terms now and must be on the shortlist of dangers.
However, Classic Illusion is well drawn at No 3, having started from the second-widest stall in the Challenge, will be ridden by in-form S’manga Khumalo and will prefer this distance to the 1450m of that race. Two of her wins were recorded in soft going and she will be a formidable rival if she is not felled by second-run-after-a-layoff syndrome.
Formation has won her last two races in a row, last week justifying favouritism to beat Negev by 1.75 lengths over 1450m on the Vaal sand. She is a much better horse on that surface, where she has a merit rating of 108 as opposed to her 94 turf figure, but she is competitive in this class on the grass track, as her second to Amur Affair in the 1600m Acacia Handicap over 1600m at this venue shows.
Mystic Tigress and Rhythmic Roxy (3.5kg worse off but ridden by a more experienced jockey now) finished 0.75 lengths apart in second and third behind Cherry On The Cake over this distance on the inside track last month and they, too, could feature, while Magic Smoke has good sand form and might be able to transfer her ability to the turf after the recent rain.
The other feature race on the programme is the R150,000 Java Handicap over 2450m and SA Derby runner-up Gothic could give Khumalo the feature-race double.
The Kom Naidoo-trained gelding is being prepared for the Sansui Summer Cup at the end of next month and will not be at a peak in his first run for 75 days.
There is no doubting his ability over this course and distance. He was beaten only 0.50 lengths by talented Wylie Hall in the SA Derby. Although he ran downfield in the Durban July in his next outing, he made no mistakes in a 2600m Pinnacle race in August in his only subsequent start. In that race he beat Winter Desire (1kg better off) by two lengths, with Eastern Cobbler, Salutation, Balse and Mirage Drive further back.
Balse went on to finish second to Tiger Play (Kindle and Mirage Drive were behind him) over 1800m and then post a win over 2200m and he must rate a big danger.
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