“Hold your horses about backing the favourite [Hawwaam] for the Sun Met — he could go out to 2-1” — that was the word on Thursday from Gauteng bookmaker Lance Michael ahead of the Cape’s premier race at Kenilworth on February 1.
The final field for the grade 1 race will be announced on Monday with barrier positions determined in Cape Town on Tuesday.
“There are a number of factors why I believe Hawwaam can ease out from his current price of 16-10 — not least because there are three serious rivals, Vardy, Rainbow Bridge and Do It Again. All three will have their supporters,” said Michael.
The bookmaker’s track record in the country’s last two big races was impressive. In November, he was quoted in Business Day as saying the Summer Cup favourite Soqrat “is definitely beatable” and the 2-1 shot had to settle for second place behind Sean Tarry’s outsider Zillzaal.
In last weekend’s L’Ormains Queen’s Plate, Michael again opposed the market leader Hawwaam and it was 17-2 Vardy who came up trumps.
Vardy has certainly put a spring in the step of his 30-year-old trainer, Adam Marcus, who will arrive in the big league if his R400,000 buy can follow up by winning the Met.
One of the joint owners, Greg Blank, is confident the son of Var can complete the Queen’s Plate-Met double. On the four-year-old’s chances ahead of Thursday’s CTS Premier Yearling Sale, Blank said: “To be honest, we thought our best chance with him was the Met so his Queen’s Plate win was a pleasant surprise.”
Asked which horse was his top choice for the Met, Michael sided with trainer Eric Sands’ five-year-old, Rainbow Bridge.
“Just look at his formline — seven wins and seven places from his 14 starts — you feel he’s almost certain to contest the finish.”
Dual Vodacom Durban July winner Do It Again went for a walk in the Queen’s Plate market upon Justin Snaith’s comment that the five-year-old had to go on antibiotics after the Green Point Stakes.
As a result Do It Again is a 6-1 chance for the Met, but Snaith has hometown advantage — it is a bit like Liverpool playing at Anfield in the Premier League — and it would be unwise to think he is not capable of avenging 2019’s defeat by Rainbow Bridge.
In past years, the Met has thrown up its fair degree of long-shot winners and two runners at huge prices — Roy Had Enough (50-1) and Charles (45-1) — have to be given quartet chances.
Trainer Frank Robinson will be happy with Roy Had Enough’s run in last Saturday’s Peninsula Handicap and a check of his form suggests Michael’s price for a place (first four) of 7.5-1 might be a gift.
The Aussie-bred five-year-old was sent off at 36-1 for 2019’s Durban July, but he turned in a fair performance finishing seventh less than three lengths behind the winner Do It Again.
Robinson sent him from his KwaZulu-Natal base to contest the Summer Cup at Turffontein at the end of November and, once again, he was just behind the placed horses finishing sixth some two lengths adrift of Zillzaal.
Charles, a record R6m buy as a yearling, has been this column’s long-shot fancy for the Met for some time, but the enthusiasm has been tempered after the four-year-old’s unplaced run in the Peninsula Handicap.
Admittedly, the son of Trippi was badly drawn, but one feels a first-four finish was necessary for him to have any chance in the Met. Brett Crawford’s gelding is understandably a 45-1 chance in the ante-post market.
1st Race: (2) Bella Rosa (13) Olivia (11) Meercat (3) Fireworks
2nd Race: (3) Blue Spark (4) General Jackson (5) Enrique (13) Magic Duke
3rd Race: (1) Sidonie (2) Christmas Flower (7) Secret Dream (8) Machali
4th Race: (2) Waqaas (6) Darkest Hour (5) Written In Stone (4) Lasair
5th Race: (4) Western Fort (5) Liberado (11) Pink (6) Seeking Gold
6th Race: (1) Dawn Assault (3) Shenanigans (2) American Indian (5) Diamond Dancer
7th Race: (8) Leopold (3) Saragon (1) Social Order (6) Russian Beat
8th Race: (3) Hertog (2) Pop Icon (6) Tokyo Drift (8) Movie Magic
9th Race: (9) Alex The Great (8) Rebel Renegade (1) Touch Of Fate (2) Captain Hindsight