Picture: 123RF/Hans Christiansson
Picture: 123RF/Hans Christiansson

Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations describes the thoughts of sports-starved fans as many popular competitions, notably in football, return to TV screens.

Of course, life can spring unpleasant surprises, as coronavirus has proved, and there was disappointment in the Premier League derby between Everton and Liverpool last weekend. It was described by one commentator as “a damp squib” so it is perhaps fitting it was played behind closed doors.

There will be great expectations in horse racing in SA this weekend — with six grade 1 races to be decided over Saturday and Sunday at Turffontein and Hollywoodbets Greyville.

It is sad that racing enthusiasts will be unable to attend the meetings — the best horses in the country will be in action including many entered for the Vodacom Durban July.

Let's look at the six grade 1 contests starting with Turffontein on Saturday.

CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE: Mike de Kock’s star performer Hawwaam is odds-on favourite to see off stablemate Soqrat as well as Tierra Del Fuego and Chijmes. Soqrat has a new pilot in champion jockey Lyle Hewitson, but that should not prevent another victory for Hawwaam.

Could it be the colt’s last appearance in SA? De Kock has warned he might miss the July if he has to enter quarantine before an overseas campaign.

COMPUTAFORM SPRINT: The revelation in the sprinting ranks has been Lucky Houdalakis’ speedster Mr Flood. He is now a seven-time winner and set a course record at the Vaal on his most recent start.

However, Cape trainer Candice Bass-Robinson has sent Russet Air on the long haul to the highveld and the message is clear — she is hoping to take top honours in this prestigious sprint. Her raider boasts consistent form at the highest level and has won three of his last six starts.

EMPRESS CLUB STAKES: It could be a successful meeting for the powerful De Kock stable as Queen Supreme — second to Hawwaam in the Horse Chestnut Stakes — looks the part for this grade 1 contest. She is also this column's fancy for the Durban July but has not been confirmed for the Greyville race.

Her opposition on Saturday includes Paul Peter's runner Vistula, the useful Magic School and In The Dance could be better than her recent form suggests.

Greyville on Sunday:

GOLD CHALLENGE: Fascinating contest with Rainbow Bridge (15-10 with bookmaker Lance Michael) and Vardy (18-10) vying for favouritism. A tough call for any pundit, but if Vardy is back to his Queen’s Plate form he might edge out Eric Sands’ runner.

Is Sands’s booking of Warren Kennedy an indication that this season’s champion elect will partner the Met runner-up in the July?

Adam Marcus’s runner Twist Of Fate has each-way claims and it would be foolish to discount the chance of Cirillo — probably the pick of Sean Tarry’s raiders.

WOOLAVINGTON 2000: Warren Kennedy had to watch Summer Pudding’s victory in the final leg of the Triple Tiara on TV, but he is reunited with Paul Peter’s star in this race.

Any chance of the favourite being rolled over? Well, it is no easy task keeping three-year-old fillies at the top of their game for a length of time, but supporters of Lady Of Steel (to be ridden by Bernard Fayd’Herbe), Marygold and Victoria Paige might be best advised sticking to exacta bets.

DAILY NEWS 2000: Another good ride for Fayd’Herbe with Joe Soma booking the experienced rider for his talented three-year-old Gotthegreenlight. Both Sachdev (Anton Marcus) and Shango will have their supporters, but there is a suspicion there is more to come from Wild Coast.

BIG RACE SELECTIONS

CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE

1 (2) Hawwaam

2. (1) Soqrat

3. (3) Tierra Del Fuego

4. (4) Chijmes

EMPRESS CLUB STAKES

1. (1) Queen Supreme

2. (3) Vistula

3. (5) In The Dance

4. (9) Magic School

COMPUTAFORM SPRINT

1. (3) Mr Flood

2. (2) Russet Air

3. (1) Chimichuri Run

4. (7) Rivarine

GOLD CHALLENGE

1. (2) Vardy

2. (7) Rainbow Bridge

3. (8) Cirillo

4. (6) Twist Of Fate

WOOLAVINGTON 2000

1. (3) Summer Pudding

2. (2) Lady Of Steel

3. (7) Marygold

4. (6) Victoria Paige

DAILY NEWS 2000

1. (5) Gotthegreenlight

2 (2) Wild Coast

3. (9) Sachdev

4. (3) Shango

LATEST BETTING

GOLD CHALLENGE

(Supplied by bookmaker Lance Michael)

15-10 Rainbow Bridge

18-10 Vardy

5-1 Do It Again

7-1 Twist Of Fate

8-1 Clouds Unfold

17-2 Cirillo

20-1 Others