Gauteng racing fans get the chance to see last season’s Equus Horse of the Year, Oh Susanna, for the first time following trainer Justin Snaith’s decision to run his star filly in Saturday’s R1m Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes at Turffontein.
It is the first time the Snaith stable has been represented in this grade 1 race since Dancer’s Daughter’s win in 2009.
Despite bookies quoting Oh Susanna as the warm 15-10 favourite in early betting, it is going to be no stroll for the Aussie-bred at the city track. Waiting to spoil the party are runners from the top stables of Sean Tarry, Mike de Kock and Joey Ramsden.
Tarry saddles Celtic Sea (Lyle Hewitson) and the filly goes to post in good form as does Ramsden’s runner, Fresnaye (S’manga Khumalo) while the De Kock stable runs Nafaayes (Warren Kennedy) who has enjoyed an outstanding season on the Highveld.
Snaith will be happy that Oh Susanna (Richard Fourie) has drawn in pole position but — for the first time in 2019 — Nafaayes has a wide barrier to overcome.
The race carries a R1m stake and Snaith. currently trailing Tarry by R6m in the trainers log, needs to take top honours to reduce the gap. Even so, the current odds of 13-20 about Tarry winning another championship looks a gift.
The presence of another striking female — this time the human kind — is another huge fillip for Saturday’s meeting with Princess Charlene flying in from Monaco. Racegoers will be keen to see Benoni-born Charlene in person.
In a media release, the princess commented: “I am looking forward to attending this year’s Royal Race Day at the historic Turffontein racecourse in Johannesburg and, of course, continuing the support for a number of worthy causes.
“Hopefully this day will also contribute to restoring some of the glamour back into the sport of racing.”
In contrast to Saturday’s exciting fare, Tuesday’s eight-race programme at the Vaal is decidedly low key, but the fifth race does see two useful performers from the Tarry and De Kock stables clash over 1,600m.
Royal Italian, a son of Pomodoro, bids to complete a four-timer for owner Chris van Niekerk while Aussie-bred Hakeem boasts a win and two placings from his last three outings for the De Kock yard.
Finchatton, formerly trained by Tarry, is still paying his way despite being seven years of age and Gavin Lerena has been booked for the ride. Another runner with sound each-way claims is Alec Lard’s four-year-old, Ragoon.
The interesting runner in the sixth race is Avantgarde, a daughter of Rankel, who has not raced since winning a maiden at Greyville in November 2018. If not in need of the run, the three-year-old may have been let in lightly with a merit-rating of 67.
Only To Win is the likely favourite in this 1,200m sprint and the filly’s weight will be reduced to 58kg with apprentice Tejash Juglall claiming his 4kg allowance.
Lady Lexington reverts to handicap company in the seventh race and Alec Laird’s daughter of Twice Over should go close in the hands of Raymond Danielson.
The distance should be perfect for Dynasty’s daughter, Kentucky Blue, with jockey Calvin Habib able to jump from a favourable draw in this 1,450m contest. Gimme Hope Johanna will start favourite but has top weight of 60kg.
1st race: (1) Hartleyfour (3) Winter Twilight (9) Bold Matador (2) Country Squire
2nd race: (10) Allmyloving (12) Singforafa (2) Kindavar (1) Midnight Top
3rd race: (1) Mighty Rock (2) Adolfo (9) Slay The Dragon (4) Gimme The Fire
4th race: (1) Fired Up (2) Bien Venue (7) Undiscovered Gem (3) Flash Burn
5th race: (5) Royal Italian (8) Hakeem (7) Ragoon (4) Finchatton
6th race: (6) Avantgarde (1) Only To Win (4) All Of Me (7) It Takes Two
7th race: (7) Lady Lexington (8) Kentucky Blue (1) Gimme Hope Johanna (5) Hafla
8th race: (4) Trip To Troy (8) Now And Forever (13) In The Game (1) Golden Lion