Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP
Picture: 123RF/CHRIS VAN LENNEP

Emperors Palace Casino Resort is used to hosting sell-out boxing bouts. But the resort also backs horse racing and will be delighted that pundits are raving about a race it is sponsoring at Turffontein on October 31.

The Emperors Palace Ready-To-Run Cup carries a stake of R900,000 — only R600,000 less than the Vodacom July — and two outstanding fillies put their hats in the ring for this big event with victories at the city track on Saturday.

In the left-hand corner is Anything Goes, a three-year-old daughter of Var trained by Stuart Pettigrew and voted Equus Champion Two-Year-Old Filly at September’s virtual Equus awards. She was bred at Varsfontein Stud and cost R275,000 as a yearling.

In the right-hand corner is War Of Athena, a three-year-old daughter of Act Of War from the stable of Paul Matchett. To say she is  proving a bargain buy is an understatement. The filly cost just R30,000 when sold as a yearling by Summerhill Stud and will line up in a race worth 30-times her purchase price.

The saddest aspect is that, unless there is an easing of the lockdown rules, this fascinating contest will take place behind closed doors.

Last Saturday, Anything Goes turned in another dominant performance in the Joburg Spring Fillies & Mares Challenge and, in doing so, maintained her unbeaten record. Jockey Diego De Gouveia, who has ridden her in each of her five starts, hardly had to move a muscle as his mount cruised home to take the R90,000 winners cheque.

It was a different scenario for War Of Athena in the fifth race — an allowance plate over 1,200m — in which jockey S’manga Khumalo had to dig deep to get the better of his chief market rival, Ecstatic Green.

Anything Goes and War Of Athena met at Greyville on Gold Cup day in August when the former prevailed in a photo-finish. It means there is precious little to choose between the pair on form and it is anyone’s guess which filly will be priced up favourite for the clash at the end of October.

With last season’s star Hawwaam now in Mauritius en route for an overseas career, trainer Mike de Kock will have slept well on Saturday night in the knowledge that he has unearthed another horse who looks destined for the top.

Mount Pleasant, a son of Vancouver who stands at stud at Coolmore in Australia at a fee of R354,425, kept his unbeaten record when the three-year-old proved too smart for his rivals in the grade 2 Joburg Spring Challenge.

Feminists may well complain about the prize money. The Fillies & Mares race carried a gross purse of R150,000 but the colts and geldings race was worth R175,000.

The horse Mount Pleasant beat in this 1,450m contest was Sean Tarry’s five-year-old, Cirillo, whose career earnings are a staggering R5.7m. The third home, Chimichuri Run, has earned R1.8m.

Cirillo’s stablemate Eden Roc ensured champion trainer Tarry did not return home empty-handed as the son of Var found the best finish to thwart his stable companion, Putontheredlight, in the final leg of the jackpot.

Lady Of Steel, winner of five of her six career starts, was relatively easy to back and the four-year-old — returning to action after a 14-week break — never got into contention and presumably needed the run.

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