Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH
Picture: JEFF GRIFFITH/UNSPLASH

When it comes to a viewpoint on SA’s big races, Gauteng bookmaker Lance Michael is more often right than wrong. So how does he see Saturday’s Cape Met? His answer: “The race will be won by either Belgarion or Golden Ducat.”

From a business point of view, Justin Snaith probably did Michael and bookmakers countrywide a good turn when his three-year-old Jet Dark sprang a surprise in the Queen’s Plate. The winner started at 12-1 but — as has been well documented — paid only R4.90 for a win on the tote.

“If you listen closely to Snaith’s comments after the Queen’s Plate, it’s obvious the Met has been Belgarion’s target ever since the July. They said he was a horse with problems but they had taken their time and got into the race with a light weight. It hit us hard,” said Michael.

His bullishness about the outcome of Saturday's R1m race will have been bolstered by Snaith’s comment to the media after the final field was announced last Wednesday.

Snaith said: “I will be very surprised if Belgarion and Do It Again don’t both finish in the first four. Belgarion’s performance in the Queen’s Plate was brilliant, he was running fresh and before that I had never believed him to be a Queen’s Plate horse. We were happy, but the pace in the race turned out to be on the slow side and he was shown not to be a miler.”

So it is clear the fast pace of the 2020 Vodacom July — the fastest since 2008 — was vital in Belgarion’s triumph so it is understandable they are worried about a slow pace in the Met.

Sean Tarry’s versatile performer Cirillo turned into the straight in the Queen’s Plate in second place but failed to kick on over the final 200m. Is it possible that the champion trainer and jockey Gavin Lerena will adopt different tactics this time and try to skip the field from the front?

Michael’s choice of the other possible winner, Golden Ducat, is an interesting call and he prefers Warren Kennedy’s mount to 2019 Met winner Rainbow Bridge.

Kennedy, due to partner Summer Pudding before her defeat in the Paddock Stakes, worked Golden Ducat in a gallop at Kenilworth last Wednesday. He said: “I was very happy with his work and delighted to be riding him. I’m just hoping we can win it.”

Golden Ducat won last season’s grade 1 Champions Cup at Greyville, but that was a race bypassed by Belgarion and July runner-up Givemethegreenlight.

With Craig Zackey on the highveld due to virus restrictions, trainer Adam Marcus has called up Grant van Niekerk for the ride on his promising filly, Princess Calla. Lance Michael’s view: “Sorry, I don’t like her or Queen Supreme, I feel it’s asking too much of Princess Calla right now and the males may be too strong for both of them.”

Van Niekerk clearly wants 2021 to be a better year than 2020 when — last April — he got the boot from the Hong Kong Jockey Club. He might have been hopeful of a place on Jet Dark in the Queen’s Plate, but he rode a perfect race to end up in the No 1 box. A second grade 1 win in one month would be something special.

Queen Supreme is not the only female making the long haul to the Cape as trainer Fanie Bronkhorst is sending down his grade 1 winner Running Brave.

Bronkhorst, who only saddled his first runner on December 5, commented: “If you haven’t got a ticket, you don’t have a chance. She’s drawn in about the middle of the field so that’s fine.

“It was touch and go prior to declaration. Regular pilot Muzi Yeni, who is unavailable as he is under lockdown in Gauteng, knows her well. That was a big factor.

“But a few things swung the decision on the upside to travel and take our chances. First of them was that Greg Cheyne, a past Met winner, phoned for the ride. He is second on the national log and has a strike rate of around 20%. So we’re not settling for a second-rate rider. We have a top man.”

MET BETTING

(Supplied by bookmaker Lance Michael)

2-1 Belgarion

4-1 Rainbow Beach

5-1 Queen Supreme, Do It Again

11-2 Golden Ducat

8-1 Princess Calla

18-1 African Night Sky

25-1 Cirillo

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