Trainer Corne Spies is not someone who lets grass grow under his feet. He has set in motion an ambitious plan to raid the big prize money offer in Saudi Arabia in February while also ensuring his stable is competitive throughout in this country.
In fact, Spies has also made his mark in Zimbabwe racing, winning that country’s trainers championship in 2015.
However, it is his Saudi Arabia venture that has caught the attention of racing fans — two of Spies’s top horses, Van Halen and Nourbese, are already en route to Riyadh via Mauritius and Europe.
Earlier in 2020, the first running of the $20m Saudi Cup attracted some of the world’s top horses to the country. That sort of prize money isn’t to be sneezed at.
Prince Bandar Bin Khalid al Faisal, chair of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, was overjoyed at the success of the first running of the Saudi Cup in February. He said: “It’s hard to overstate the success of the Saudi Cup 2020 when you consider that in a year a brand new international event can attract some of the very best horses, training and jockeys in the world.
“We witnessed 22 individual group or group 1 winners who had accumulated an impressive 34 wins at that level between them.”
Spies’s five-year-old Van Halen is a recent grade 1 winner having won the Mercury Sprint at Greyville at the end of August, while stablemate Nourbese, a son of Futura, boasts a victory in the grade 2 Golden Horseshoe.
Amazingly, these two horses cost only a total of R240,000 between them, but Spies knows they have the opportunity to advertise the great value of SA horses on the world stage.
In the more immediate future, Spies has a team of 10 competing at the Vaal on Thursday and many of his runners can be given each-way chances.
Perhaps the pick of the stable runners is the four-year-old filly Impressive Duchess, who should be competitive in the final leg of the jackpot. The daughter of Duke Of Marmalade takes a drop in class after finishing second behind Petra last time out.
Adverse weather conditions resulted in Monday’s Vaal meeting being switched to Turffontein, but this did not affect Muzi Yeni, who booted home three winners. His mount, Comaneci, looks the chief threat to Impressive Duchess.
Yeni and Spies team up in the seventh race with the Var filly Sweet Sensation, yet the duo may have to settle for a place cheque.
This 1,000m sprint has attracted two speedy sorts in Winter Smoke and Slalom Queen and they could fight out the finish. Bookies have understandably priced up the former as favourite, but the 7-1 on offer about Sean Tarry’s filly looks attractive odds.
Spies has booked champion jockey Warren Kennedy for Miss Khalifa in the fourth race and the consistent mare can earn another cheque. The selection in this 1,500m contest is Mike de Kock’s filly Fire Flower.
De Kock will be hopeful his Frankel filly Lagertha can open her account at the fourth attempt when she runs in the opening Work Riders event.
Gavin Lerena’s mounts always warrant close scrutiny and he can go close on Believeinthefuture in the third race. This son of promising sire Futura may appreciate dropping back to a shorter trip.
Lerena rides Aussie import Deerupt in the final leg of the Pick 6, and though unplaced in her last few starts, it might be unwise to leave the mare out of exotic bets.
1st Race: (1) Lagertha (7) Twice The Act (5) Queen Noor (2) Flower Season
2nd Race: (11) Indlamu (2) Shadow Creek (4) Royal Wulff (1) Numberninetynine
3rd Race: (8) Believeinthefuture (6) Bold Resolve (1) Jet Cat (12) Pin Drop
4th Race: (2) Fire Flower (8) My Kingdom (14) Miss Khalifa (13) Lets Talk
5th Race: (11) Grazinginthegrass (9) Magic Vision (1) Gold Rock (3) Chevron
6th Race: (6) Ocean Forest (3) Tyrus Express (9) Lord Melbourne (2) Flash Burn
7th Race: (10) Slalom Queen (8) Winter Smoke (9) Sweet Sensation (7) Visiway
8th Race: (3) Impressive Duchess (1) Comaneci (9) May Queen (2) Herstel
9th Race: (1) After Hours (6) Deerupt (5) Cream Soda (15) Waimea
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