If you hear the name St John Gray in discussions among punters at bookmaker or tote premises, what will become obvious is that the Randjesfontein trainer is held in high regard.
Since saddling his first winner in 2008, owner-breeder St John Gray has sent out a steady stream of winners and he reached the milestone of 1,000 successes in December 2019.
What is noticeable is the high number of wins racked up by some of his charges. The list includes Where’s My Chop (12 wins), Dawn Assault (11), Formation (11), Captain Aldo (10), Yer-Maan (10) and Dancewithedevil, his first grade 1 winner, with nine wins.
In a way, one could liken his operation to that of English Premier League club Leicester City. They have held their own in recent seasons and even managed to win the championship. Similarly, St John Gray wins a lot of minor races, then pops up with a grade 1 winner.
This happened at Turffontein in June when Ronnie’s Candy, under a well-judged ride by Piere Strydom, won the grade 1 Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes, beating Vistula and hot favourite Queen’s Supreme.
Ronnie’s Candy heads to Hollywoodbets Greyville on Sunday to take on five-time winner Mississippi Burning in the R500,000 KZN Breeders Mile. Adam Marcus’s filly is enjoying an outstanding season but just might find her year-older rival too smart for her.
The form of the Empress Club points to Ronnie’s Candy as the one to be on as both the second and third are classy females. It reads better than Mississippi Burning’s recent defeat of Mary O, though it can be argued that the three-year-old was returning from a long break.
Chijmes rates an each-way chance and should earn a cheque, but Ronnie’s Candy looks worth a decent bet at almost level weights with Mississippi Burning.
There is a possibility St John Gray could land a feature race double as Christopher Robin journeys to KwaZulu-Natal boasting consistent form and has a shout of taking the Golden Sword 1900. Her chief rivals could be The Bajou, Master Magic and Paths Of Victory.
Trainer Mike de Kock will be happy with Soqrat’s draw for next week’s Vodacom Durban July, and his runner Hellofaride makes plenty of appeal in the New Predator 1600. The runner with the best merit-rating is Dennis Drier’s runner Caliente, so this will be no stroll in the park for Callan Murray’s mount with In Auro also entering the reckoning.
Garth Puller and Anton Marcus look a strong combination in the Macrath Stud 1600 in which Georgina Rose should give her backers a good run for their money. Her rivals include Wendy Whitehead’s Liquid Irish, Sean Tarry’s Spiritofthegroove and Just Kidding, who makes the journey from Gary Alexander’s Turffontein stable.
Last weekend’s Track & Ball Oaks has been rearranged for Sunday’s meeting and the selection remains the same with Alec Laird’s stayer Chitengo taken to get home ahead of Pomander, Ballet Shoes and Return Flight.
That Candice Dawson sends down Ballet Shoes from Gauteng suggests she is expecting a big run, and Richard Fourie is an eye-catching jockey booking.
KZN BREEDERS MILE
1 (9) Ronnie’s Candy
2 (2) Mississippi Burning
3 (4) Chijmes
4 (1) Running Brave
TRACK & BALL OAKS
1 (5) Chitengo
2 (1) Pomander
3 (11) Ballet Shoes
4 (3) Return Flight
MACRATH STUD 1600
1 (3) Georgina Rose
2 (8) Liquid Irish
3 (6) Spiritofthegroove
4 (1) Just Kidding
GOLDEN SWORD 1900
1 (1) Christopher Robin
2 (3) The Bayou
3 (11) Master Magic
4 (8) Paths Of Victory
NEW PREDATOR 1600
1 (3) Hellofaride
2 (11) Caliente
3 (5) In Auro
4 (8) Final Attempt
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