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

Even with two Durban July notches on his belt, Chris van Niekerk is always up for a challenge in the sport of horse racing. He has one on his hands over the next nine days as he tries to overhaul Suzette Viljoen for this season’s “top owner” title.

Latest statistics published by Turftalk (up to July 19) put Van Niekerk in third place with earnings of R4,799,275 compared with Viljoen’s R5,069,925. Drakenstein Stud is in second place with a total of R4,893,675.

A highly respected man in racing and business circles, Van Niekerk, the reigning leading owner, will be the first to congratulate Viljoen if she wins the title. It will be some feat as she became an owner only in 2018.

However, Sean Tarry, who has trained for Van Niekerk since 1998, is making a late push to try to get his chief patron over the line once again.

His useful juvenile filly Twice The Trip has been entered for both the Debutante and Thekwini Stakes at Greyville on July 31, and recent winner Victoria Paige heads for the grade 2 Kuda Gold Bracelet.

There is every possibility that Van Niekerk’s familiar blue and red colours could make three visits to the number one box at the Vaal on Thursday. The trio are La Luvia (third race), Mount Athos (fourth) and Tight Five in the final event on the card.

La Luvia, a daughter of Soft Falling Rain who cost R180,000 when bought  from Ten Einde Farm, is a worthy favourite for the third race, and should go close in the hands of champion jockey elect Lyle Hewitson. He will not be amused at being winnerless at the last two Gauteng meetings.

Last time out, La Luvia finished a close second behind stablemate Cordillera — a filly bred by Bosworth Farm Stud and also owned by Van Niekerk.

Bold Fortune and Nartjie rate the dangers to La Luvia — the first-named represents the stable of Stuart Pettigrew but got a four-point penalty for her recent second.

Tarry will be disappointed that the well-bred Tight Five has managed only one win in nine starts. That solitary victory came in a Work Riders event. The opposition in Thursday's eighth race is modest in the extreme with possibly Ashley Fortune's runner Funky Music season’s the main threat.

Paul Peter will be glad Reunion got back on the winning path last time out and the three-year-old could follow up in the hands of Gavin Lerena in the fifth race. The scratching of Trend Master makes the gelding’s task easier, and the main threat may now come from Alec Laird's runner Lady Amherst.

Peter is represented by the Scott Bros-bred three-year-old Beyond The Runway in the seventh race and the filly’s career took off with a convincing win on her second start.

The daughter of Mogok will relish the step up to 1,600m, and is another promising mount for Lerena. Candice Dawson's runner Future Lady warrants inclusion in exotic perms.

SELECTIONS

1st Race: (12) Safe Passage (7) King Arthur (5) Groomedtowin (13) This Generation

2nd Race: (9) Wisteria Avenue (7) Twenty Four Kay (4) Maboneng (3) Gilda Gray

3rd Race: (6) La Luvia (5) Bold Fortune (1) Nartjie (2) Foreign Field

4th Race: (8) Mount Athos (3) Signals (1) One Block (4) Arizona Lady

5th Race: (1) Reunion (8) Lady Amherst (2) Tyrus Express (5) Zeal And Zest

6th Race: (1) Southern Song (7) All Aglow (5) Rock You (3) Pin Up

7th Race: (1) Beyond The Runway (6) Future Lady (2) Ancestral Prayer (3) Let There Be Light

8th Race: (6) Tight Five (10) Funky Music (2) Dark Tide (1) Nordic Rebel

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