THIS WEEKEND: Easter Handicap and SA Classic
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.
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.