Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Renowned US owner and breeder Barry Irwin has had the thrill of many winners but none more so than 2011 Kentucky Derby hero, Animal Kingdom.

The victory prompted Irwin, 75, to write a book on the horse and he has followed the progress of Animal Kingdom’s offspring with great interest.

For many years, Irwin, CEO of Team Valor International, was a big supporter of South African racing and breeding, but that came to an end in April when he announced he was liquidating his stock in this country as a result of the sport "being tainted" by the Markus Jooste saga.

"I personally tried to cause a change, but I must sadly report that not enough support was received. So it’s business as usual, but it will toddle on without my involvement," he said.

South African racing is poorer for Irwin’s withdrawal from the sport, but happily we do have one of Animal Kingdom's progeny, Animal Lover, competing here and the four year-old filly runs in Thursday’s fifth race at Turffontein.

It is fair to say that Animal Lover, who was bred in Australia, has not set the track alight and only won her first race here in April, ironically the same month Irwin cut ties with SA.

What makes most appeal about Animal Lover is that — although she is taking a rise in class — she will carry just 52.5kg in this 2,000m contest. In all her previous starts, Gary Alexander’s filly has been lumbered with 59.5kg or 60kg.

There are a number of useful females taking on Animal Lover and they include the Mike de Kock duo of Penny From Heaven and Pearl Of Bahrain. The latter beat Animal Lover last time out but is now worse off at the weights.

Penny From Heaven, who cost R600,000 as a yearling, also looks to have her limitations. She rates the same chance as trainer Lucky Houdalakis’s runner, Braxton.

Geoff Woodruff’s runners always demand close scrutiny and he sends out Sunshine Silk, who like Penny From Heaven, is a daughter of Silvano.

The four-year-old is returning from a four-month break
but will have Gavin Lerena in
the saddle.

Another filly returning from a rest is Green Plains who does duty for Sean Tarry’s stable in the final leg of the jackpot.

If not "ring rusty", the daughter of Gimmethegreenlight must go close as she finished sixth behind Sommerlied in the grade 1 SA Fillies Sprint at Scottsville in May.

Punters should check the market before placing their bets as — if there is no strong support for Green Plains — all of Winter Watch, Covered In Snow and Singing In Seattle enter calculations. Covered In Snow, a talented daughter of Crusade, did well for owner Peter White last season and will have benefited from September’s outing when third behind Schippers. She will be piloted by her usual jockey, Muzi Yeni.

Dorrie Sham, who trains Singing In Seattle, will be hoping her three year-old filly, Targaryen Queen, can open her account in the second race.

The daughter of Jackson has turned in three useful efforts and should go close in the hands of Karl Zechner.

There are, however, a couple of well-bred debutantes including Summer Afternoon, a daughter of Trippi trained by Sean Tarry, and Veritas, a daughter of Captain Al representing the stable of Johan Janse van Vuuren.

A win by Piere Strydom’s mount, Orpheus, in the sixth race will be a further boost for Noble Secret who is the ante-post favourite for the G-Bets Summer Cup to be run at Turffontein on December 1.

A son of Western Winter from the Mike and Adam Azzie yard, Orpheus finished just a length behind Noble Secret at Turffontein in August. His main rivals on Thursday include The Rising Legend and the Dynasty gelding, Shogun.