Things get serious on Sunday, May 2, the first day of South Africa’s Champion Season. Many of the country’s top gallopers start their build-up to the bigger plums of the three-month racing festival with the Gr2 Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes, heading a quality card at Hollywoodbets Greyville.

Supporting features on the ten-race programme are the Gr2 WSB Guineas and Gr2 WSB Fillies Guineas.

Gr1 Cape Town Met winner Rainbow Bridge and stable companion Golden Ducat are stand-out entries in the Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes over 1400m.

Both geldings, who incidentally are half-brothers, are trained by Eric Sands and owned by Mike and Norma Rattray. It has been Rattray’s burning ambition to win the Vodacom Durban July after coming close on a number of occasions and will pin his hopes on this pair come Saturday, July 3.

He was banking on the two last year but Rainbow Bridge disappointed in sixth, Golden Ducat doing better, finishing fourth.

Teenager Luke Ferraris, who has only recently come out of his time as an apprentice, will again be aboard Rainbow Bridge hoping to add to their Cape Town Met victory, and Donovan Dillion, who recently returned from injury, will partner Golden Ducat, the pair finishing fourth in last year’s July.

Paul Peter has accepted with the smart three-year-old Catch Twentytwo, runner-up to Triple Crown winner Malmoos in the WSB Gauteng Guineas and then third in the Gr1 SA Classic, again behind Malmoos. Gavin Lerena stays aboard.

Apprentice Thabiso Gumede scored his first feature race victory aboard Trip To Africa in the Kings Cup and Duncan Howells has kept faith with the youngster. They have a plum draw at two and a win here will go some way towards increasing Trip To Africa’s chances of a gate in the Vodacom Durban July.

Pinkerton is a little under the radar but has a 50% winning strike rate in his seven wins and his last two successes have been over 1400m, the distance of the Drill Hall. Stable companion Wild Coast will be ridden by Grant Van Niekerk and will start from gate 6.

The unbeaten colt Kommetdieding drew 8 in the WSB Guineas and the race will be something of a litmus test. Trained by Harold Crawford and his daughter Michelle Rix, he was a short-priced favourite for the Gr1 Jonsson Workwear Cape Derby but his participation was derailed through injury. The Derby was won by WSB Cape Guineas runner-up Linebacker, so it will be interesting to see how they go against each other. However, both are sure to be warming up for the Daily News 2000 before a crack at the July.

MK’S Pride has been a star on the Highveld, and beat Got The Greenlight in the Gr2 Hawaii Stakes. It was a top-class performance even if seen in the light of Got The Greenlight’s comeback run.  He has drawn pole in the Guineas alongside Jonsson Workwear Derby winner Linebacker which should make for another interesting match-up.

Dean Kannemeyer’s Cape Guineas winner Russian Rock disappointed in a Graduation Plate in his first KZN outing this term but that run should have brought him on.

Vaughan Marshall has two top entries in Linebacker and recent Byerley Turk winner Seeking The Stars in what should be a cracking renewal of the Gr2 WSB Guineas.

Justin Snaith’s star filly Captain’s Ransom pulled a top draw of 3 in the WSB Fillies Guineas and the manner of her recent wins should make her difficult to beat. Beaten only once, she has twice taken on top older fillies and on both occasions put them to bed with ease, the smart Clouds Unfold victim on both occasions including the Gr1 Cartier Majorca Stakes on Met Day.

She put up a cracking gallop at Hollywoodbets Greyville last week and looks primed for this event.

Although she looks head and shoulders above the opposition, Princess Calla, second to Captain’s Ransom in the Cape Fillies Guineas, was an impressive winner at Hollywoodbets Scottsville a fortnight back and can make a race of it while Only The Brave is back over a more suitable trip after finding the SA Oaks out of her compass and the combination of Muzi Yeni and Paul Matchett is often lethal. Journalist: Andrew Harrison