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

It is a racing promoter’s dream: the Durban July winner vs the Horse-of-the-Year.

In any normal season, Belgarion, who made it eight wins from 10 starts when winning Saturday’s Green Point Stakes at Kenilworth, taking on Summer Cup heroine Summer Pudding would see the “house full” signs going up.

Unfortunately, this is no normal season and — unless there is a sudden turnaround in Covid-19 cases — this clash in the Sun Met on January 30 will be run behind closed doors.

Bookmakers’ reaction to Saturday’s result was to promote Belgarion to co-favourite with Summer Pudding for the Met. Hollywoodbets quotes both horses at 28-10.

With Rainbow Bridge, Cirillo and Clouds Unfold among his rivals, Belgarion looked to have it to do returning from a 20-week break, but he confounded many pundits and his jockey Richard Fourie.

To his credit, in the post-race interview Fourie said he had expected the Dynasty gelding to need the run. “I thought he would need it, I got it wrong.”

Not that he is too concerned about that because Belgarion’s defeat of Rainbow Bridge and Cirillo means the five-year-old is on course for further big race success during the Cape season.

Winning trainer Justin Snaith mentioned the Queen’s Plate as a possible target en route to the Met but the gelding’s optimum trip is further than the 1,600m of that grade 1 race.

Luke Ferraris, partnering Rainbow Bridge for the first time, did nothing wrong on Eric Sands’s star, but the fact remains that the six-year-old has won only two of his past eight races. He may battle to repeat his 2019 Met success.

Cirillo turned in another brave effort to take the third cheque for champion trainer Sean Tarry. The son of Pomodoro is sure to figure among the nominations for the Queen’s Plate.

Clouds Unfold — towards the rear for much of the race — looked set to challenge when getting a clear run on the inside rail, but Candice Bass-Robinson’s mare failed to find the necessary acceleration at the business end and had to settle for fourth place.

Just 35 minutes after Belgarion’s win, the Snaith-Fourie partnership was at it again, with Captain’s Ransom running out a decisive winner of the grade 1 Cape Fillies Guineas.

Bred at Moutonshoek Stud, the daughter of Captain Al proved too smart for the well-backed Princess Calla, who had to settle for the runner-up berth. These two wins closed the gap between Snaith and Paul Peter in the national trainers log.

Tarry will have left the Kenilworth track in buoyant mood as his star mare Celtic Sea lowered the colours of the hot favourite Run Fox Run in the grade 2 Southern Cross Stakes.

Bookmakers seemed convinced Tarry’s runner could not win, pushing the mare out to 7-2 in late betting, but Gavin Lerena had other ideas and brought the famous Beck colours home to another memorable win.

The Sceptre Stakes was mentioned as a possible future target for the Captain Al mare, but why not the Queen’s Plate? The five-year-old has proved she stays 1,600m.

Like Fourie, this column got it wrong in the Green Point Stakes but not in the Cape Summer Stayers in which Chrome Yellow came from the rear to mow down her opposition at the end of the 2,500m marathon. It was the sixth career win for owner-breeder Sabine Plattner’s Trippi gelding.

While the big action was at Kenilworth, another member of the female sex, Queen Supreme, put another finishing touch to her forthcoming Cape campaign with a facile victory at Turffontein.

Similar to Celtic Sea, bookies seemed determined to take on  Mike de Kock’s import, who looked a 5-10 chance against some modest opposition. Her price drifted out to a generous 13-10.

Astrix was the horse backed to beat Queen Supreme but — for the second time in the last few weeks — the four-year-old’s limitations were exposed and he finished five lengths adrift in third place.

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