The Vodacom Durban July Pick 6 could have made an instant millionaire of anybody who caught it last year, as it paid a dividend of over R4 million, and one of the races which the shrewd will be looking at to give them an edge this year is the highly competitive fifth leg, the Compendium MR 104 Handicap over 1000m.
Attenborough is an enigmatic sort who reportedly does not always bring his best homework to the track, but after he had stormed home from the back to win the In Full Flight Stakes over 1100m Anton Marcus said, “I think it’s the secret to him, to ride him slightly cold, and he will produce his best.” The same tactic was employed after a slow start in the Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Sprint over 1200m but this time he found no extra. The blinkers have now been applied, which will no doubt sharpen him up, and he might appreciate the step down in trip too from a good draw of six in a race with plenty of pace in it.
Asstar won the Listed Umgeni Handicap over course and distance last season and loves being in KZN. He runs well fresh and won his first start in KZN last year after a similar length layoff to this one. He is two merit rated points higher than his Umgeni win and has a draw of nine as opposed to five, but the pace in this race will suit him and he will likely make a bold bid.
Elusivenchantment faced impossible tasks in her last two sprint starts in the Computaform Sprint and SA Fillies Sprint, but before that over this suitable 1000m trip she went close to the speedy and classy Jo’s Bond in the Listed Kwa-Zulu Natal Stakes where they both carried 61,5kg. From a good draw of five this speedy filly should be right up with the pace from the off and as one who has won four times over 1200m she should run all the way to the line. Alec Forbes did very well aboard Elusivenchantment’s half-sister Via Africa for owners Andre Hauptfleisch and Albert Boshoff and the latter pair have requested a renewal of this partnership. She is only two points higher than her last handicap win, although that was against her own gender.
The last time Vision To Kill faced Elusivenchantment over this trip was in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Stakes and she was beaten 1,3 lengths. However, she was cramped for room for most of the race. If weight for age is taken into account they face each other on the same terms and she would be a leading fancy if it was not for her tough draw.
Angel’s Power showed a fine turn of foot the last time he went this trip at Turffontein to win going away under Piere Strydom. Strydom is back aboard from draw seven and the race should set up well for this gelding by Miesque’s Approval, whose progeny love the poly. On the downside he is seven points higher in the merit ratings than that last win.
The pace in the race will suit the big and rangy Doing It For Dan, who has enjoyed his two runs on the poly. He can be dropped out from a wide draw of ten and gather momentum for an effort in the straight, although the form of his third over course and distance two runs ago is questionable in the context of this race.
Our Destiny faces Elusivenchantment on 0,5kg better terms for a 0,5 length beating in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Stakes, but she was affected by scrimmaging in that race which cost her a length or two. She was well beaten by Vision To Kill in the Poinsettia, which confuses the form, as she was then very impressive over that same Scottsville 1200m trip next time out when showing an exceptional turn of foot. She has a plum draw and if producing her best will be a big runner in a race which should pan out well for her.
Isca comes off an outstanding sixth place in the Computaform Sprint and attempts to retain his crown here. He will be staying on but is seven points higher in the merit ratings than last year and is draw eleven compared to two.
Hashtag Strat has exceptional cruising speed and from a draw of two is likely to make a bold bid from the front.
Highway Explorer has speed and some class but has a tough draw of eight and is three points higher than when winning the off season African Holly Handicap over course and distance.
Horse Guards has a chance on weight turnarounds with Attenborough. He won his debut over course and distance by five lengths and is drawn in pole, so must have a shout.
The once highly promising Varbration is well drawn and has been in good form off a lowered merit rating, but is officially 2kg under sufferance.
There is not much between Hashtag Strat and Angel’s Power at the weights considering their last meeting, but the former is improving and has a plum draw, especially for her pacey style.
Hashtag Strat is tipped to beat Angel’s Power with Asstar in third and Our Destiny, Attenborough and Doing It For Dan are selected to follow them home, although it’s hard to ignore just about every horse in the race.