Kotzen eyes winners enclosure
Glen Kotzen only has two runners at the Vodacom Durban July meeting, but could well find himself in the winners enclosure during the day.
Seven years ago Kotzen walked away from the VDJ meeting with two Gr 1 trophies as his Equus champion three-year-old colt Big City Life won the July and his Equus Champion three-year-old filly Lady Windermere won the Garden Province.
This year he has a fine chance of landing the majority share of the KZN Yearling Sale Million stake cheque with the Kahal filly Shizam.
Shizam has some fine maiden form in Cape Town. She got off the mark last time out on April 23 over 1200m in her fifth career start, having placed before that behind some top class sorts like the Secret Is Out and The Merry Widow. She won that Maiden Juvenile Plate for fillies by 0,5 lengths from subsequent winner China Pearl and had the rest of the field beaten 6,75 lengths. Two other horses have subsequently won out of the race and she beat them by 9,75 lengths and eleven lengths respectively. Her pole position draw on Saturday is ideal as she has plenty of pace.
Kotzen said on pedigree she should stay an extra 500m, so the 100m extra of the 1300m trip will pose no problem. She has been at Summerveld for at least six weeks and is fit and well. He described her as a forward-thinking filly who does not race green, so experiencing the course and the lights for the first time should not be a concern.
“She is a huge runner,” he concluded.
He said his runner in the Gr 2 Gold Circle Golden Slipper, the Judpot filly Final Judgement, was “exceptionally well and working like a bomb.” He said she had been caught flat-footed when beaten 5,25 lengths by Maleficent in the Listed Devon Air Stakes over the same 1400m course and distance as she had raced very green in her first experience of the course. He concluded by saying there was room for “big improvement.” She is also drawn in pole.
Stuart Randolph rides both fillies.
Brett Crawford’s stable jockey Corné Orffer does not have a ride in Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July, but was bullish about two of his mounts for the yard on Saturday.
He said about the recent Gr 2 Tibouchina Stakes winner Alexis, “She is doing very, very well.” The small Dynasty filly loves Greyville, having won three of her five races there, but like last year has landed a tough draw of eleven for the Gr 1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes. She finished a 4,4 length fifth in the race last year from draw 9.
Her optimum trip is probably 1400m, but she did win last season’s Gr 2 KRA Fillies Guineas in fine style over the Garden Province 1600m course and distance, albeit from a good draw of five. Alexis will be 1kg worse off in weight for age terms with both Silver Mountain and Inara from the Tibouchina for respective 0,15 length and 0,9 length beatings. However, she will be 1kg better off with Sensible Lover despite a 0,65 length beating.
Orffer was particularly bullish about the three-year-old Silvano gelding Nebula, despite him having to jump from a wide draw of 12 in the last race of the meeting, the Listed Daisy Business Solutions Handicap over 1600m on the turf.
He said, “Nebula will be hard to beat.”
Nebula found a handy position from draw eleven over course and distance last time out under Anthony Delpech and quickened well in the straight to beat Danza by 1,75 lengths. It earned him a six point merit rated raise, but being by Silvano he is likely to be improving as he matures.
Ashburton trio looking good
The three Ashburton-based runners for Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July were all in good order yesterday.
Ten Gun Salute, his every move stalked by his private security, stretched nicely over 800m on the sand with big race rider Muzi Yeni aboard.
“He’s spot on,” said Yeni. “His gallop at Greyville was excellent. He’s much better on the grass than the sand but has been working well. I was not on the horse for his last three runs but he seems to have calmed down a lot. He’s still a colt and was very difficult when he first started.”
“2200m will be right up his alley,” said Duncan Howells.
Saratoga Dancer did similar work under work rider Debbie Dick. “He went very well. I think Duncan’s got him at his best for Saturday.”
However, Howells cautioned, “I’m stretching him a bit but given some luck in running he will be right there.”
Mac de Lago had an easy morning, doing a couple of laps of the trotting ring under the watchful eye of Weiho Marwing and assistant Amy McMullen. Marwing, at first fearful that a slow-run July would be detrimental to the chances of Gr1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge winner has had a change of tune.
“I first thought a slow pace wouldn’t suit us but I think I may be wrong,” he said. “If we can be 10 lengths off the pace turning for home Bernie (Fayd’Herbe) can see what’s in front of him. I think we will have a chance; he can turn it on,” Marwing said of ‘Big Mac’. “The big thing is not to break his stride.”
Mac De Lago got a seven-pound penalty for his Rising Sun win which will not have done his July chances any favours but Marwing pointed out that the filly Dancer’s Daughter won the Challenge and followed up in the July.
“He’s one of five runners not under sufferance in the race and he has been placed behind top horses over the Turffontein 2000m before. Any horse that gets the Turffontein 2000m should see out the 2200m at Greyville,” Marwing added.
Anthony Delpech and Anton Marcus aim for five.
Jockeys Anthony Delpech and Anton Marcus will both be attempting to land a record-breaking fifth win in South Africa’s biggest horse race, the Vodacom Durban July, at Greyville on Saturday.
Delpech looks to have the better chance of achieving the milestone this year, at least as far as the betting odds go.
He is aboard the ruling favourite Bela-Bela, who was as eye-catching as usual when working on the top sand track at Summerveld yesterday morning (Monday).
The power in her stride is evident even at an easy pace.
Some say a low draw of three will make it tough for the three-year-old filly in her first ever race against males, especially as the July is renowned for being a rough race.
However, Delpech disagrees.
He said, “I would prefer to be drawn three than 20. She has good gate speed and is a simple horse to ride.”
Bela-Bela is only 0,5kg under sufferance according to official merit ratings. Furthermore, trainer Justin Snaith pointed out she had not yet proved how good she was. In his opinion all three of his three-year-olds in the race will have considerably higher merit ratings in six months time.
The grey Dynasty filly is out of the amazing 20-year-old broodmare Mystic Spring, who has also produced the like of Rabiya, Secret Of Victoria, Spring Lilac and Rafiya.
Bela-Bela’s breeder Vaughan Koster of Cheveley Stud was there to see her at Summerveld yesterday morning.
Vaughan bred the Snaith-trained July winner of 2014, Legislate, who was also by the great 2002 July winner Dynasty.
Anton Marcus said he would have preferred to be closer to the fence than draw 11, especially considering he was on a horse which he was not sure was good enough to win the race. However, he said his mount, the Joey Ramsden-trained four-year-old Silvano gelding St. Tropez, had been doing very well in his preparation.
St. Tropez is 3,5kg under sufferance according to official merit ratings.
Marcus believed another Markus Jooste-owned July candidate Rabada had put in a “great run” in Sunday’s KZN Breeder’s Million Mile. The Brave Tin Soldier colt, with Marcus up, was beaten only 1,5 lengths and the top jockey pointed out he was weighted to have only run fourth.
Trainer Mike Azzie and connections were due to monitor how Rabada had pulled up out of Sunday’s race before deciding whether to run him in the July or not.
Grant van Niekerk now believes that Marinaresco’s 19 draw holds no fears for either him or the horse. He initially considered it to be the worst draw of the lot – and indeed so did punters and bookmakers, and the three-year-old’s price went out from 6-1 to 9-1.
But Van Niekerk said: “The draw doesn’t really bother me that much because I now think the best going is probably three or four horses off the rails as there are patches on the track.
“In any case I was always going to give him a chance. It will be his first time racing at Greyville and I don’t want to make it hard for him. But I think he will suit the course and I know he will make up the ground. He is a very good horse, probably up there with the best I’ve ridden.”
Mike Bass’s final July runner hasn’t always been easy to handle. “He used to be very naughty in a race, fighting other horses, and if he worked alongside something he would have his ears flat back as he tried to have a go at the horse and it’s rider.”
Gelding and blinkers have channelled this in the required direction – “He is now all heart in a race and he fights to the line. I just have to find luck in running.”
This will be the fourth Vodacom Durban July ride for Van Niekerk who will be 25 on Thursday and who is hoping to gain compensation for being robbed on 55-1 shot Smanjemanje four years ago.
He recalled: “It was my first ride in the race and I can remember every single bit of it. I went into it with no pressure. I knew the horse had ability but maybe not up to that class.
“However he surprised me. I got bumped twice (by the Jeff Lloyd-ridden Chesalon) in the straight and I still believe today that this cost me the race. I was pushed from the outside to the middle and I was only beaten a short head.”
Joey Ramsden, whose St Tropez (Anton Marcus) is sixth in the betting at 12-1, also runs 20-1 shot The Conglomerate (Piere Strydom).
He said: “I think it’s a very open race. It is going to take a nice horse to win but you are going to have to have a fair bit of fortune – I don’t see a lot of pace. However I’m spoilt in that I have two of the best riders in the country, if not the world.”
Justin Snaith, bidding for a third July win, also believes luck in running will be important – “Any one of my four can win, it’s a question of how the race pans out for them. At the moment I think I won’t even want to watch – I will go there and close my eyes !”
Dreamtime for Lyle Hewitson
Established Champions in all sports have the capacity to take success in their stride and eighteen-year-old apprentice sensation Lyle Hewitson is on the right path in this regard.
Hewitson stood by jockey Richard Fourie at Summerveld yesterday and it would have been difficult to tell who between them was on the cusp of his first Vodacom Durban July ride and who had already won the race before, such was the relaxed demeanour of both.
Hewitson said, “I am just going about life as normal at the moment as I am riding in races this week. But there is a great vibe around the July, the press have been great, it’s very exciting.”
He learnt about a month ago he would have a July ride, but did not know which horse he would be on.
He added it was only when his name was revealed at the draw ceremony next to the Justin Snaith-trained contestant Dynamic it hit him and he described it as a “surreal” moment.
The reaction from his alma mata Kearsney College emphasised the feat as he received a barrage of sms’s and social media messages from pupils, Old Boys and teachers alike.
A lot of his friends attend the July every year, but are especially looking forward to Saturday’s renewal as they will have somebody to cheer home.
Hewitson admitted he had never dreamed he would be in this position just over three months ago when making his professional debut on March 6 at Scottsville.
He has already added 53 winners to the 22 he achieved as a work rider and will almost certainly lose his claim in record-breaking time.
He said, “I couldn’t have mapped anything I have done so far.”
Dynamic, a six-year-old gelding by Dynasty, is drawn in pole.
However, Hewitson is yet to plan his race.
He said, “We have a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the race.”
Dynamic has a tough task, being 3kg under sufferance according to official merit ratings, and he is rated a 33/1 chance by bookmakers.
However, Hewitson has been happy with the horse’s preparation.
Dynamic finished a four length third in last season’s July consolation race, the Gr 3 tabGold 2200, in his only attempt at the July trip. However, he was staying on strongly when runner up as a three-year-old in the Gr 1 Investec Cape Derby, so looks to have the necessary stamina reserves.
Meanwhile, Fourie was quietly confident about his mount, the Snaith-trained Investec Cape Derby winner It’s My Turn.
He was happy with the Dynasty gelding’s July gallop and said, “He was on the wrong leg but I wasn’t worried because we were going slow. When I picked it up he quickened instantly.”
On his chances he said, “At Greyville if you have a Dynasty you have a big chance.”
It’s My Turn, who is coming off a possibly unlucky second in the Gr 1 Daily News 2000, is officially 2,5kg under sufferance and has a tough draw of 14 to overcome. He is 13/1 with most bookmakers.
Gavin van Zyl runs three-year-old Rocketball in the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday and has a number of other runners at the meeting.
The horse the yard seem most bullish about on the day is KZN Yearling Million contender Poster Girl.
Jockey Warren Kennedy described Rocketball as a “very strong horse”, so was not concerned by his antics at the July gallops when keen as they set off.
He said they had gone a very slow pace, so he had not surprisingly taken a “tug”, but he added the main thing was “he did not overdo it.”
Kennedy pointed to the Judpot gelding’s recorded 22,9sec 400m to finish time at the gallops as proof he had the necessary finishing speed for the tight Greyville track.
The timing system on the day is done through a flag drop, so the accuracy has to be questioned, but Rocketball did quicken well in the Gr 1 SA Derby.
In the Gr 1 Daily News the pace had been too slow and Kennedy said, “He had too much ground to make up, but ran all the way to the line.”
He concluded, “He is in a good place, his prep has been good. I am happy with the draw (seven).”
Kennedy’s best July finish has been third on the 100/1 shot Forest Path in 2009.
Kennedy said about first race contender Brown Sugar, who carries topweight of 62kg minus the 2,5kg claim of Eric Ngwane, “It’s her favourite course and distance (1400m), she won well last time, and has the claimer aboard.” The form of that last race is hard to assess, but the field were well spread out which usually indicates a good performance and the handicappers gave the four-year-old a four point raise in the merit ratings.
The yard have two runners in the Middle Stakes over 1400m and Kennedy said, “Bagger Vance (drawn 14 with Brandon Lerena up) has become consistent and is in a good space at the moment. Tipo Tinto is a funny horse, he is seven-years-old, and hard to predict.” If Tipo Tinto repeats his last run over course and distance, when most unlucky, he could earn from a draw in which he should be able to drop in as there is plenty of pace on his inside.
Gavin van Zyl said about Isca, who runs in the Compendium MR 103 handicap over 1000m on the poly, “He is quick, so this could be his right trip and he drawn next to the right horse (Harry Lime).” The grey Var gelding has been dropped three points, but is 0,5kg under sufferance. He jumps from draw two under Kennedy and has a chance provided he behaves in the pens.
Just Ask Me runs here too and Gavin said he had been doing nicely but would find it too short.
Poster Girl is next up and Anton Marcus rides from a plum draw of two in the lucrative 1300m event. Kennedy emphasised, “She is doing very, very well at the moment.” He pointed out she was the only horse in the field with Gr 1 form.
Assistant trainer Gareth van Zyl said about the yard’s runners in the eleventh race, the tabGold Sprint over 1200m on the polytrack, “Budapest is doing well, it might be a bit sharp, but it’s worth a shot. Redcarpet Captain has been gelded, but it is not easy from the draw (eleven).” He said Redcarpet Captain had improved in his work since gelding.
Kennedy said Celtic Captain would be alright returning to the mile in the Listed Daisy Business Solutions Handicap on the turf and did not expect him to repeat his antic of looking at the big TV screen, which had proved costly after he had quickened into the lead in the Gr 2 Canon Guineas. He added the horse’s run in the Daily News 2000 had not panned out well, so it was not necessarily due to him not staying the trip.
Gavin Lerena will be aboard Celtic Captain from draw eight, while Kennedy will ride the honest Silver Spring from draw five. The latter has dropped back to the 90 merit rated mark off which he finished a narrow second in the Listed Michael Roberts Handicap, although he is known to have a few soundness issues.