Horse Racing Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 14, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / PAUL CHILDS
Horse Racing Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 14, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / PAUL CHILDS

Former champion trainer Geoff Woodruff has two lightly weighted runners that could trouble the favourite Cirillo in Saturday’s R400,000 Senor Santa Stakes at Turffontein.

Cirillo has proved a wonderful bargain buy for owner Chris van Niekerk and the three-year-old will take his earnings to more than R4.5m if successful on Saturday. The colt cost R300,000 but Van Niekerk deserves the reward as he has ploughed a vast amount of money into the sport.

However, trainer Sean Tarry and top jockey, Anton Marcus, will both be aware this is the toughest task of Cirillo’s career because he is giving weight to older horses.

Both of  Woodruff’s runners, Billy Silver and Schippers, will receive four and four and a  0.5kg from Cirillo. In a weight-for-age event, they would be giving the Tarry inmate 2.5kg.

Billy Silver is quoted at 16-1 in early betting and those look attractive each-way odds as the Silvano gelding was beaten by top sprinter Pinnacle Peak last time out.

Schippers, a daughter of Var, is enjoying a successful season with three wins and two placings in five starts. The filly is quoted at 11-1 in the early market.

Two other big players in this grade 2 race are Mardi Gras and Cirillo’s stablemate Green Plains. With three wins in his last four outings, Mardi Gras is on an upward curve and he will have plenty of support in Saturday’s contest.

Young apprentice Luke Ferraris won on Green Plains in February  and retains the ride on the filly who was bred at Gary Player’s stud. The four-year-old has fewer kilometres on the clock than  most of her rivals.

The supporting feature — the R150,000 Drum Star Handicap — offers Dynasty’s son Noble Secret the chance to notch the sixth win of his career.

The recent demise of top stallion Dynasty is a blow for the bloodstock industry and Noble Secret is another of his sons to hold his own in feature races.

Randall Simons, Noble Secret’s regular pilot, can expect challenges from last season’s SA Derby winner Hero’s Honour and Piere Strydom’s mount Cash Time.

Trainer Mike de Kock also saddles The Dazzler and Pietro Mascagni for this 1,800m race with in-form jockey Gavin Lerena partnering the latter for the first time.

Another interesting runner from the Woodruff  stable is the well-bred filly Solemn Promise, who makes her handicap bow in the final leg of the Pick 6. Given her pedigree — she is out of the seven-time winner Covenant — the three-year-old has proved disappointing, but now runs in a weak contest.

Lucky Houdalakis’ runner Serendipity should do well from a favourable draw and two others to consider are Jetorio and Gold Scent.

While Anton Marcus is making the trip to the highveld primarily to ride Cirillo, he has been booked for Vistula in the sixth race and Paul Peter’s filly has to be on the short list of possible winners.

Vistula’s chief opponents include Mrs O and Rock A Roll Dancer who represents the in-form stable of Stuart Pettigrew. Punters will need to include a number of runners in jackpot and Pick 6 perms.


1st Race: (2) Jacko Boy (1) Favourite Model (3) Destiny’s Game (4) Hareer

2nd Race: (6) Celtic Sea (4) Redberry Lane (3) Fresnaye (2) Takingthepeace

3rd Race: (11) Stockbridge (9) Meeraas (2) Setablaze (4) Baron Rodney

4th Race: (1) Pretty Ballerina (3) Jamra (6) My Dream Chaser (4) Fariha

5th Race: (7) Whorly Whorly (1) Angel's Power (2) Cathedral County (3) Great Shaka

6th Race: (1) Vistula (2) Mrs O (5) Rock A Roll Dancer (4) Nautic Spirit

7th Race: (12) Billy Silver (3) Cirillo (16) Schippers (9) Mardi Gras

8th Race: (3) Noble Secret (1) Hero's Honour (9) Cash Time (7) Pietro Mascagni

9th Race: (4) Solemn Promise (3) Jetorio (6) Serendipity (5) Gold Scent