Jock­eys scram­ble for top Met horses

MERIT: ST JOHN GRAY’S FILLY IS RATED 107 IN VAAL AS­SESS­MENT PLATE

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - FRONT PAGE - Mike Moon

Blos­som starts to re­mind us of her fa­mous mother.

Ron­nie’s Candy glo­ries in a merit rat­ing of 107 and if she can per­form any­where close to that mark she will dod­dle a 1400m As­sess­ment Plate, Race 7, on the Vaal Straight course to­mor­row.

Trainer St John Gray’s young­ster burst onto the big stage when she was a 36-1 maiden win­ner of the SA Fil­lies Nurs­ery in May last year. She had placed a cou­ple of times be­fore de­liv­er­ing that shock, but was not con­sid­ered up to the stan­dard set by other ex­pen­sive run­ners from big sta­bles.

This daugh­ter of King Of Kings changed opin­ions quickly as she out­gal­loped her op­po­si­tion like a good horse.

Slow starts and rough pas­sages be­set Ron­nie’s Candy in two ju­ve­nile out­ings dur­ing the KwaZu­luNatal win­ter sea­son and Gray made a wise de­ci­sion to give the filly a four-month break. The ben­e­fits of the hol­i­day were ob­vi­ous when she came out fresh to ham­mer a de­cent field in the 1400m Grade 2 Star­ling Stakes at Turf­fontein in early Novem­ber – rekin­dling mem­o­ries of that Nurs­ery tri­umph.

Stepped up to 1600m in the Fil­lies Mile, she again im­pressed with a close-up third. Back to 1400m in the Three Troikas, she was right on the pace un­til the fi­nal 200m when a cough­ing episode put paid to her chal­lenge.

The As­sess­ment Plate ini­tia­tive seems just the ticket for Ron­nie’s Candy at this stage of her ca­reer and could prove a spring­board for big things in the Highveld au­tumn sea­son.

Karl Zech­ner, who has been bril­liant in the sad­dle lately, gets the job on the ex­cit­ing filly.

How­ever, her the­o­ret­i­cal dom­i­nance of the race is threat­ened by sev­eral among her 12 ri­vals.

Trainer Mike de Kock fields Greener Pas­tures, who has an MR of 93 – pretty high for a three­year-old one-time win­ner from five starts.

Whether the hand­i­cap­pers have got their sums right should be re­vealed by this con­test, but we must re­spect what they have seen in this daugh­ter of Gim­methe­green­light.

At the top of the weights, two four-year-olds – Aure­lia Cotta, from Sean Tarry’s yard, and Ra­di­ant Splen­dour, from Gary Alexan­der’s – have both won twice and done fairly well in good com­pany.

They could be the ones to pounce if Ron­nie’s Candy goes miss­ing – es­pe­cially with young rid­ing ty­ros Lyle He­wit­son and Den­nis Sch­warz wide awake to any op­por­tu­nity.

Heaven’s Re­ward, trained by Lucky Houdalakis, came out smok­ing last year with two vic­to­ries in her first two starts. But, after a rest, her come­back run in Novem­ber didn’t re­sem­ble the ear­lier ef­forts and the jockey re­ported some­thing amiss.

A 75-day break since then might have sorted her out and she could spring a Tri­fecta/Quar­tet sur­prise.

One other run­ner to bear in mind is Blos­som, a daugh­ter of Triple Tiara hero­ine Cherry On The Top. The three-year-old cruised to a 5.30-length win in her sec­ond start and re­minded us of her mother’s ex­ploits.

Old master Or­mond Fer­raris sad­dles Blos­som for Mau­ritz­fontein and Wil­ger­bos­drift and has the own­ers’ re­tained jockey Gavin Ler­ena to guide her. Again, this one is worth in­clud­ing in wider bets.

Pic­ture: JC Pho­to­graph­ics.

SWEET TREAT. Ron­nie’s Candy has a 107 merit rat­ing and could lead pun­ters to the pay­out queue in Race 7 at the Vaal Straight course to­mor­row.

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