Leading owner Chris van Niekerk will already consider 2019 as another successful year and few will bet against him not retaining the trophy he received in August in 11 months’ time.

Van Niekerk has become like a lighthouse beacon on a stormy night. The storm clouds have gathered in racing over the past six months yet the man who has won twice at the Durban July is predicting better weather ahead.

As a top business person, Van Niekerk knows to strike while the iron is hot and he chose his acceptance speech at August’s Equus awards to get his message across that the sport may be in choppy waters but is in no danger of sinking.

He said: “We seem to find it difficult to be positive, especially when things are not so good. The reality is that they are never as bad as they seem.

“We humans seem to have got this unfortunate trait, we think negative and, as a result, what transpires is only negative.

“We need to get to the real issues — there are always solutions to be found. We need a sustainable future and must not pull in 10 different directions,” said Van Niekerk.

No less than six horses will sport Van Niekerk’s colours at Turffontein on Thursday and his two best chances of success lie with Viper Jet (second race) and Aussie-bred Big Myth in the final leg of the jackpot.

Not many Sean Tarry horses start at 40-1 yet that was the price on offer on Viper Jet’s debut at Thursday’s track in August. A son of Pomodoro, who gave Van Niekerk his first July victory in 2012, the colt went into many notebooks after his fast-finishing second behind Marshall.

Marshall, a member of the powerful Mike de Kock yard, will be at cramped odds to maintain his unbeaten record when he takes on seven rivals in the fourth race.

Tarry has given apprentice Kabelo Matsunyane a chance to make a name for himself and the youngster rode 49 winners last season. In Thursday’s eighth race, he once again teams up with Big Myth and the import can defy top weight of 61kg and beat home Serendipity and Piccadilly Square.

Another of Pomodoro’s progeny owned by Van Niekerk and to be partnered by Matsunyane is Apple Magic, who takes her chance in the final leg of the Pick 6. However, the filly will have to raise her game to beat two improving three-year-olds, Twice As Special and Tartan Dancer.

The father and son team of Mike and Adam Azzie will be hoping their grey filly, Readysetglo, can finally leave the maiden ranks by taking the opening event on the card.

Bred at Summerhill Stud in Mooi River, Readysetglo has finished runner-up in each of her last three outings so is not one to risk the rent money on. In the circumstances, it might be wiser to support another Summerhill produce, Clifton Cougar, who will have benefited from her run behind Britannia Queen in August.

The fifth race looks a trappy event for punters with many runners boasting consistent form. Perhaps the well-named Category Four — her dam is Cyclone Michelle — will suffice for place accumulator punters.


1st Race: (8) Clifton Cougar (1) Readysetglo (13) Thandekhile (7) Bold Bijou

2nd Race: (14) Viper Jet (11) Mr Mogambo (3) Eightintheeighth (1) Orchid Street

3rd Race: (4) Purple Diamond (3) Roll Of Drums (2) Bien Venue (7) Ehsaan

4th Race: (2) Marshall (7) Pelican Bay (6) Rocky Path (1) Vartanium

5th Race: (2) Category Four (3) What A Joker (5) Miss Khalifa

6th Race: (3) Chouette (4) Star Of Gibraltar (5) Kirkconnel Lass (6) Over The Limit

7th Race: (1) Chariot Of Gold (2) Pilgrim’s Progress (8) Eightfolds Lass (7) Rabia The Rebel

8th Race: (1) Big Myth (5) Serendipity (3) Piccadilly Square (4) My Elusive

9th Race: (8) Twice As Special (9) Tartan Dancer (1) Varquera (5) Apple Magic