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

It could become the “Year of the Veterans”. Phil Mickelson winning a golf Major at the age of 50 and trainer Vaughan Marshall possibly capturing his first Vodacom Durban July at 69. The Empangeni-born conditioner will be hoping his three-year-old Linebacker can advertise his chances for SA’s most famous race by winning the R750,000 Daily News 2000 at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday.

It is a top-notch grade 1 race which racing fans have been looking forward to for weeks, but the winner’s purse of R468,750 is evidence of the dire state of the sport’s prize money. That figure is almost exactly half of what SA golfer Christiaan Bezuidenhout earned for finishing in 30th place in last weekend’s PGA Championship in South Carolina.

Linebacker, winner of both the Cape Derby and grade 2 WSB Guineas, fully deserves his position at the head of the Daily News market and has to be fancied to notch his fourth win in eight starts.

Waiting to take him on is another Cape-trained three-year-old in Kommetdieding who — presumably because of his unusual Afrikaans name — has a following similar to Justin Bieber in his early days.

The jury is out as to whether Harold Crawford and Michelle Rix’s Elusive Fort colt would have beaten Linebacker in the Guineas with a trouble-free passage. We will get the answer to that question on Saturday.

This column has long been banging on that Linebacker’s stablemate, Rascallion, could still be a live July contender and that is another question to be answered. Marshall knows a big run is a must to get his charge into the July and he has booked Sean Veale who rode the colt (now gelding) to his maiden win at Scottsville.

The cards have not fallen the way of Justin Snaith in the early weeks of the KwaZulu-Natal season and his runner, The Gatekeeper, is in the same boat as Rascallion. He needs to improve markedly on a poor performance in the WSB Guineas.

Gavin Lerena said on Thursday that the two runners from Johan Janse van Vuuren’s stable, Copper Mountain and Second Base, are “both in a very good space”. He believes his mount, Copper Mountain, will be “finishing well at the end of the race” so a quartet double floating Linebacker and Copper Mountain with Kommetdieding, Second Base, Rascallion and The Gatekeeper makes a lot of appeal. The wager will cost R144.

The sudden change in betting in the Woolavington 2000 last week — with Captain's Ransom drifting alarmingly — signalled something was afoot and the name of Snaith’s star filly did not figure among the final acceptors on Monday.

This now leaves a three-cornered contest in the grade 1 race between War Of Athena, Princess Calla and Netta. The first-named is the even money favourite to land her ninth win.

Considering that War Of Athena gave Netta a nine lengths hiding in the SA Oaks, some will believe this writer has dabbled in a prohibited substance in suggesting that Paul Peter’s raider can get her revenge this time. However, there is no escaping that Triple Tiara heroine, War Of Athena, has had a busy year and Warren Kennedy can get a lot closer this time.

With the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) announcing Saturday’s meeting as a World Pool event, they would be more than happy if Princess Calla took the first cheque of R312,500 in the Woolavington. The reason is that the HKJC bought Princess Calla’s half-brother (by Silvano) for R2.4m at the National Yearling Sale at Germiston in April.

This will be Princess Calla’s second attempt at 2,000m. Her first when fifth in the Cape Met (beaten five lengths by Rainbow Bridge and cramped in the race) did not throw any light on her ability to stay the distance. The worry is that her dam, Princess Royal, only won up to 1,200m.

Punters should get a good run for their money from Alyson Wright’s four-year-old Matterhorn in the Lonsdale Stirrup Cup, but it is a filly from the same stable that looks worth a serious each-way punt: Top Me Up Holly makes her handicap bow in the fourth race and priced at 10-1 in early betting, Lyle Hewitson’s mount has a merit-rating of 71 and may be ahead of the handicapper.

This is the family of Set Afire and Rudra — two top-class performers. Hollywood may have bought her cheaply at R300,000.

BIG RACE SELECTIONS

DAILY NEWS 2000

1. (6) Linebacker

2. (8) Kommetdieding

3. (10) Copper Mountain

4. (3) Rascallion

WOOLAVINGTON 2000

1. (7) Netta

2. (1) War Of Athena

3. (5) Princess Calla

4. (6) Chat Ching

LONSDALE STIRRUP CUP

1. (7) Matterhorn

2. (4) Black Knap

3. (13) Silver Host

4. (15) Bayberry

LATEST BETTING

(Supplied by bookmaker Lance Michael)

DAILY NEWS 2000

18-10 Linebacker

2-1 Kommetdieding

7-1 Second Base

10-1 Copper Mountain, The Gatekeeper

12-1 Rascallion, Russian Rock

25-1 Others

WOOLAVINGTON 2000

9-10 War Of Athena

14-10 Princess Calla

4-1 Netta1

2-1 Chat Ching

25-1 Others

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