Surprise as big race draw made two months early
Phumelela executive says draws come out at nominations stage as the Champions Challenge will be run at Turffontein on May 4
Top trainer Sean Tarry is among a number of people in racing confused that the draw for SA’s second richest race — the R4m Champions Challenge to be run at Turffontein on May 4 — has already been done.
Tarry has a number of his top performers — including Tilbury Fort, Legal Eagle, Zilzaal and Return Flight — entered for the 2,000m race, and said on Wednesday that “he was confused that the draw would be made so soon”.
Unfortunately for this season’s leading trainer, this quartet have all drawn poorly with the exception of Return Flight, who drew stall 11 of the 22 nominations.
Clyde Basel, Phumelela executive for racing & events, said on Wednesday that “we decided not to have a manual draw for the race. Draws come out at nominations stage unless there is a special draw”.
Of course, unlike the Sun Met, Vodacom Durban July and G-Bets Summer Cup, the Champions Challenge does not have a sponsor and this may have influenced the decision.
There have been draws near the time of both the Summer Cup and Met covered by Tellytrack and the racing media, and this is sure to have boosted the events and brought them to the attention of the racing public.
One trainer happy with the outcome of the early draw is Gary Alexander who has favourable barriers for his two entries, Hero’s Honour and Odd Rob. Cape trainer Justin Snaith has entered Durban July runner-up Made To Conquer and his participation would add great interest to the grade 1 event.
Tarry has 12 runners doing duty for his stable at the Vaal on Thursday and they include a number with strong form credentials including Makara (first race), Hafla (fifth), Royal Italian (sixth) and Colour Of Light in the final leg of the Pick 6.
A daughter of ill-fated Soft Falling Rain, Makara, looks ready to leave the maiden ranks in the opener but faces some useful rivals including Mill Queen and Dive Captain.
Hafla, a well-bred daughter of Trippi, returns from a 16-week break in the first leg of the jackpot and should run well if not in need of the outing. However, the Irish-bred mare State Star might have the edge in fitness and Alec Laird’s five-year-old is getting 3.5kg from Tarry’s runner.
The progeny of 2012 Durban July winner, Pomodoro, are firing on all cylinders and his son, Royal Italian, bids to complete a
hat-trick when he takes on eight opponents in the sixth race.
Although this is a small field, it consists of some in-form handicappers including Jubilee Line, Nordic Rebel and the bottom-weight Norland.
Norland and Jubilee Line met at Turffontein in February and the first-named, who has performed well for Chris Erasmus’s stable this term, is better off at the weights this time.
The Tarry inmate Colour Of Light will have her supporters in the ninth race in which Soul Of Wit might spring a surprise for the small stable of Romeo Francis. The daughter of Ideal World is the best horse in his yard and can go close in the hands of his regular jockey, Craig Zackey.
A possible banker bet for punters is Aussie import Josi Di Nero who boasts the best form in the fourth race. Gavin Lerena has got the call-up to partner the filly for the first time.
1st Race: (9) Makara (12) Mill Queen (6) Dive Captain (11) Margot's Magic
2nd Race: (4) Comaneci (1) Dancing Queen (5) Lady Lexington (2) Louvain
3rd Race: (15) Undiscovered Gem (2) Mahogany Bond (1) El Sereno (3) The Russian Sailor
4th Race: (2) Josi Di Nero (6) Petite Aime (3) Bated Breath (4) Cape Ash
5th Race: (5) State Star (1) Hafla (3) Rustling Leaf (4) Snow Path
6th Race: (9) Norland (8) Royal Italian (1) Nordic Rebel (3) Jubilee Line
7th Race: (9) Baahir (11) Manitoba (12) Peace Call Me (8) Visigoth
8th Race: (8) Mythical Bolt (1) State Trooper (2) Polar Ice (5) Whitehaven
9th Race: (8) Soul Of Wit (4) Colour Of Light (9) Visuality (14) Tricia