Top-drawer rac­ing

THIS WEEK­END: Easter Hand­i­cap and SA Clas­sic

Weekend Witness - - Racing - PHIL DRAKE

AS spec­tac­u­lar as it may look, horses that man­age to rally from last into the home straight and get up to win, need to be treated with some cau­tion. Not since the mighty Sea Cot­tage has a horse been con­sis­tently good enough to give loads of start and still pre­vail.

A blis­ter­ing turn of foot is what added lus­tre to the le­gend that was Sea Cot­tage, so Tellina has a hard act to fol­low when he lines up in the SA Clas­sic at Turf­fontein this af­ter­noon, where pa­trons will be roy­ally treated to rac­ing out of the top drawer.

Ge­off Woodruff had Tellina tuned to the sec­ond for the Gaut­eng Guineas, first leg of the Sascoc Triple Crown, and the im­pos­ing son of Sil­vano strode to the start look­ing a mil­lion dol­lars. Many will ar­gue that the Guineas field was far from vin­tage, but as the run­ners hit the turn Rob­bie Fradd had to snatch up off the heels of the run­ner in front of him and came within a hair’s breadth of lodg­ing a “land claim”.

Tellina was sub­se­quently shuf­fled to the back of the field and was a good 10 to 15 lengths off the pace turn­ing for home. Fradd, an ac­com­plished veteran with loads of in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence, let his mount build up speed grad­u­ally in the long Turf­fontein straight and Tellina re­sponded by mo­tor­ing past the Grade 1-win­ning War Horse and sta­ble com­pan­ion Kil­lua Cas­tle in the shadow of the post.

It was a per­for­mance that had scribes flip­ping through the dic­tionary for su­perla­tives — but scep­tics re­main.

The names of Parana and Mu­jaarib spring to mind, two horses that turned in sim­i­lar per­for­mances on the Turf­fontein out­side track only to go “miss­ing” at their sub­se­quent out­ings.

That’s not to say that Tellina will not, or can­not win the Clas­sic this af­ter­noon, but the 33-10 on of­fer just about sums up his chances.

War Horse, sec­ond to Tellina in the Guineas, took an age to get go­ing as Fan­nie Cham­bers threaded Corne Spies’ run­ner through the traf­fic, and given bet­ter luck in the run­ning and an ex­tra fur­long, he could give Tellina most to do.

In stark con­trast was the per­form- ance of Cherry On The Top in the Gaut­eng Fil­lies Guineas. Given a clin­i­cal ride by ap­pren­tice Nooresh Juglall, the Or­mond Fer­raris­trained daugh­ter of Tiger Ridge stalked the early pace be­fore be­ing turned loose two fur­longs out. Show­ing a smart turn of foot she quickly had the mea­sure of her ri­vals and drew off to a com­fort­able vic­tory.

On that show­ing she has all of her Guineas ri­vals’ stone cold, but the one that could pose a threat in the Fil­lies Clas­sic is the un­beaten Or­a­tor’s Daugh­ter. Alec Laird is one of the more pa­tient train­ers around and has taken his time with the im­ported daugh­ter of now Avon­tuur res­i­dent stal­lion Ora­to­rio. It was a close call first time out, but in two sub­se­quent starts over 1 400 me­tres she has made win­ning look very easy.

How­ever, there is a moun­tain of dif­fer­ence be­tween a lowly MR 88 Hand­i­cap and Grade 1 com­pany, and Or­a­tor’s Daugh­ter will be given a search­ing test this af­ter­noon.

Af­ter his spec­tac­u­lar win in the Novem­ber Hand­i­cap to keep an un- beaten record in­tact, Mu­jaarib was sent out as favourite for the Sum­mer Cup only to turn in a mod­est per­for­mance as he trailed home some seven lengths adrift of up­set win­ner Wag­ner.

He lines up in the HF Op­pen­heimer Horse Ch­est­nut Stakes, third Grade 1 on the Turf­fontein card, in an at­tempt to re­deem his rep­u­ta­tion but he takes on a high-class field that in­cludes a resur­gent Slum­dog­mil­lion­aire — last year’s Clas­sic win­ner — White­line Fever and Galileo’s Des­tiny.

Given a break af­ter his Sum­mer Cup dis­ap­point­ment, Mu­jaarib fin­ished a mod­est fourth be­hind Slum­dog­mil­lion­aire and looks un­likely to turn the ta­bles on that show­ing. Slum­dog­mil­lion­aire went “wrong” af­ter the Clas­sic and had some­thing of a rushed prepa­ra­tion head­ing into the J & B Met.

How­ever, blink­ers ap­pear to have done the trick as he kept find­ing gamely to hold off the use­ful Heavy Metal in a set-weights race lead­ing into this af­ter­noon’s event. A wide draw is of some con­cern, but with Pierre Stry­dom in mas­ter­ful form at present, that should not be an in­sur­mount­able ob­sta­cle.

Galileo’s Des­tiny promised much early in his ca­reer, fin­ish­ing third be­hind English Garden in the Clas­sic two sea­son’s back, and his win early last month beat­ing War Horse was only the third of his ca­reer — it was also his first run af­ter a be­lated geld­ing.

He was run­ning on nicely be­hind White­line Fever and Ap­proach­able in the re­cent Hawaii Stakes over 1 400 m, but given his pedi­gree and the fact that he is “two stone” lighter, to­day’s trip will be more within his com­pass.

Lo­cally, rac­ing at Clair­wood to­mor­row sees the run­ning of the Easter Hand­i­cap. West­ern Cape-based train­ers are drib­bling in for Cham­pi­ons Sea­son and Vaughan Mar­shall will be look­ing to get off to a flier when he sad­dles Tribal Dance. The colt gives weight all round, but he has enough class to see off the likes of the lightly weighted Big City An­gel as well as Ro­man Wall and Pen­haligon.

PHOTO: GOLD CIR­CLE

Tribal Dance is run­ning in the eighth race, over 2 000 me­tres, at Clair­wood to­mor­row. The four-year-old colt is bet­ter than re­cent form and should be in­cluded.

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