Picture: GETTY IMAGES/IAN FORSYTH
Picture: GETTY IMAGES/IAN FORSYTH

One of the best sights in any sport is two champions going head-to-head. This will happen at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris on Sunday and also at Turffontein in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Sadly, both of these events will be staged behind closed doors. Still, they should make enthralling viewing for armchair watchers.

In the sixth race at Turffontein, top jockeys S’manga Khumalo and Piere Strydom look set to have the 1,200m race between them on their respective mounts, Captain Morisco and Spanish Boy.

Hopefully these two jockeys will not see this column as they may end up despondent.

The prize money on offer for the action in Paris compared to that in Johannesburg is as wide as the Grand Canyon in the US.

Roland Garros has prize money for the tournament of a staggering €38m. First prize in the Turffontein race is R42,000 — that is €2,144  at the current exchange rate.

Khumalo will partner Captain Morisco for the third time and will be aiming to recoup losses for punters after the son of Captain Of All’s defeat in a graduation plate in September.

What is in the three-year-old’s favour is that he is trained by Ashley Fortune, and her sprinter Captain Hindsight outran Spanish Boy in their recent clash over 1,000m.

Nevertheless, this contest has reminded me of what a UK racing guru told me in my early days in racing many moons ago. He said: “If you back three-year-olds against four-year-olds for the first three months of the season, you will end up with empty pockets.”

On Saturday, Captain Morisco is set to concede half a kilo to Spanish Boy, so I’m taking Strydom to bring his mount home for owner David Shawe.

It looks unlikely that any of the other eight runners will get a look in. Holy Man does hail from the in-form stable of St John Gray, but the colt was beaten by nearly seven lengths last time out and is no certainty to finish in front of Argentinian-bred Mohican.

Gavin Lerena’s rides are always worth a second look and he could find a place on Candice Dawson’s lightly raced four-year-old Var Aglow.

It comes as something of a surprise that Khumalo isn’t riding another Ashley Fortune inmate, Tahitian Orana, in the seventh race. He has been in the saddle on the Gimmethegreenlight filly for her last two victories so would surely have been offered the ride.

Instead, Khumalo will be on the former Cape-trained filly Castellano, who makes her debut for Alec Laird’s stable. The Randjesfontein trainer is excellent with the media and had an immediate answer to the jockey booking for his runner. “Quite simple, I booked S’manga first.”

Though bookies rate Castellano a 10-1 chance, the four-year-old does receive 5.5kg from Tahitian Orana and could play a part if not in need of the run.

Fortune has found a perfect replacement rider in Luke Ferraris who, according to Winning Form statistics to October 4, is in fourth place on the national jockeys log.

Similar to Tahitian Orana, Elusive Force is also chasing a hat-trick so the filly, who hails from this season’s current leading trainer, has to be included in all exotic bets.

With 19 winners up to October 4 this term, it has also been a bright start to the new campaign for trainer Paul Matchett. The former Zim trainer introduces a filly from his home country, Lily Blue, who arrives with an unblemished record. She’s an 11-2 chance in early betting.

The eighth race sees the return to Highveld action for Sean Tarry’s top-class six-year-old Warrior’s Rest, who has done owner Chris van Niekerk proud this year with a string of excellent runs. Victory will take the gelding’s earnings over R1m.

Nevertheless, Warrior’s Rest is going 1,600m this time and it could be another member of Paul Peter’s yard, Astrix, who rates at least a place accumulator banker. The son of Vercingetorix beat Nafoorah last time out and he is rated a decent sort by Mike de Kock.

De Kock gives Charles — formerly with Brett Crawford — his first Highveld outing and his performance will be closely monitored as the Trippi gelding has been entered for the Summer Cup.

Fired Up gives the De Kock stable strong back-up and the swinger — coupling the son of Rock Of Gibraltar with Astrix — might pay a healthy dividend.

Another talented runner is Fabian Habib’s four-year-old Youcanthurrylove. Last season’s SA Classic third will strip fitter after his recent run behind Zouvaves.

SELECTIONS

1st Race: (11) Bold Allure (4) Blue Eyes (12) Meeneera (3) Sergeant York

2nd Race: No Selection

3rd Race: (1) Leading Lad (6) Master Mariner (10) Baymax (12) David’s Palace

4th Race: (3) Roodipoort (2) Fast Draw (10) FSquadron (1) Nussply

5th Race: (9) Gold Griffin (8) Barak (7) Odd Rob (4) Sunshine Silk

6th Race: (4) Spanish Boy (3) Captain Morisco (5) Mohican (6) Var Aglow

7th Race: (1) Tahitian Orana (2) Elusive Force (5) Lily Blue (6) Castellano

8th Race: (6) Astrix (9) Fired Up (1) Warrior’s Rest (4) Youcanthurrylove

9th Race: (7) Etched In Blue (11) Somasonic (6) Crank It Up (9) Ululate

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