Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA
Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA

The Scottsville Sprint Festival, first staged in 1962, is SA’s oldest, biggest and richest sprint carnival, the only of its kind with four grade 1 dashes in one day.

Saturday’s renewal of the Tsogo Sprint race day, previously known as the Golden Horse, is one of the top race days in the land and offers R3,2m in prize money in 2019.

The grade 1 contests include the R1m grade 1 Tsogo Sun Sprint; the R7500,000 grade 1 Tsogo Sun Gold Medallion; the R750,000 grade 1 SA Fillies Sprint and the R750,000 grade 1 Allan Robertson Championship, all over 1,200m.

With exceptional pace all round, there is no margin for error and at the undulating Pietermaritzburg track, course suitability is a factor too. This bodes well for Van Halen, who has raced there only once before and pulled off a big surprise when winning last season’s Gold Medallion on the same day.

If you believe in cycles, and in the maxim that history repeats itself, trainer Tobie Spies’s Van Halen is your weekend outsider at opening odds of 16-1. He comes into the race in good form, looks well weighted and will be ridden by Dennis Schwarz, who was crowned champion apprentice of the Highveld feature season at last week’s Racing Association awards ceremony.

Brett Crawford’s Undercover Agent, a year older than Van Halen and at the top of his game too, presents the biggest danger. History is also in favour of his stable companion Bold Respect, who will be seeking a big-race double and will have grade 1 ace Anton Marcus holding his reins.

Basadi Faith, unbeaten after four starts and another Racing Association award winner, has the toughest race of her career on her hands against 15 rivals in the Allan Robertson, where Cape raider Vandah’s Spirit looms a serious challenger.

Frosted Gold, who won the SA Nursery for Mike de Kock, is a progressive sort whose consistency and ongoing improvement could give him the edge in the Gold Medallion.

Champion filly Snowdance reverts from the middle distances to 1,200m, but she has been prepared specifically with the SA Fillies Sprint as her target and, having won over 1,100m as a younger horse, is expected to return to winning ways.

Scottsville selections, Saturday

Race 1: (2) Stage Dance (1) Shivers (3) Anika The Angel (5) Miss Missouri

Race 2: (13) Sovereign Spirit (1) Astral Flight (7) Farm Your Tractor (2) Opensea

Race 3: (10) News Stream (4) Popsicle Toes (2) Mr Fitz (7) Born To Perform

Race 4: (8) Kingsmead (7) Woodstock Festival (11) Royal Cavalier (1) American Hustle

Race 5: (14) Vandah’s Spirit (1) Basadi Faith (2) Cavivar (9) Roll In The Hay

Race 6: (7) Frosted Gold (5) Eden Roc (1) African Warrior (2) Alramz

Race 7: (1) Snowdance (15) Celtic Sea (3) Schippers (12) Mighty High

Race 8: (6) Van Halen (1) Undercover Agent (2) Bold Respect (5) Chimichuri Run

Race 9: (5) Samsonite (2) Spring Fling (6) Viento (13) The Money Man