At first glance, the jockey bookings for Saturday’s HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes at Turffontein resemble a game of musical chairs. Aldo Domeyer switching from Zarina to Princess Calla who he has never ridden, Keagan De Melo taking over from Domeyer on Zarina and Anton Marcus on She’s A Keeper for the first time.
A bit of detective work has revealed that Domeyer “had the choice” between Zarina and Princess Calla who are now both in the care of Vaal trainer, Ashley Fortune.
Candice Bass-Robinson, who sent up Zarina from her Cape stable, says “Keagan was always going to ride her”. The in-form jockey partnered Zarina to victory in last season’s grade 1 Garden Province Stakes. Princess Calla was beaten the width of cigarette paper in second much to the delight of bookmakers.
Presumably, Domeyer, who has made regular visits to the highveld this year to ride for the Fortune stable, has worked both fillies and he’s come down on the side of Princess Calla. Her merit-rating is two points higher than Zarina.
At the time of writing, Princess Calla and Zarina share favouritism for Saturday’s race at 3-1, but it would be no surprise to see the first-named shorten markedly before the “off”.
After riding Princess Calla in her last four starts, Anton Marcus cannot be too happy to be switching to She’s A Keeper who has four lengths to find on Majorca Stakes form.
However, Gareth Van Zyl’s filly finished a creditable fifth in the Paddock Stakes and — provided Marcus can overcome a wide draw — the swinger with Princess Calla might see punters in the payout queue.
Mike De Kock, who has been on another trip to Australia, sends out Sparkling Water who was recommended for the Durban July 10 weeks ago when a 33-1 shot to 5-1 a place. She is now a 16-1 chance with bookmaker Lance Michael.
One can expect S’manga Khumalo to bring his mount with a sustained late run, but whether she can run down the principal contenders looks unlikely over the 1,600m trip.
It’s a fair assumption that trainer Stuart Pettigrew has had the Spook Express Handicap — the other feature race on the card — pencilled in for his Silvano filly, Quiet Rebellion, for some time.
With just 50kg on her back, the three-year-old should go well in the hands of Kabelo Matsunyane who has ridden 30 winners this term.
As Muzi Yeni doesn’t have a mount in the Empress Club, the popular jockey, in fourth place in the national log, will be hoping for a repeat win in this race on Robbie Sage’s stayer, She’s A Cracker.
The mare is admirably consistent and — along with Smokey Hot and Opera Glass — may pose the main threat to Quiet Rebellion.
The Vaal hosts a Work Riders meeting on Thursday and Sam Mosia could land a double for Paul Peter on Lady Osier (third race) and Double Magic in the final leg of the jackpot.
EMPRESS CLUB STAKES
1. (1) Princess Calla
2. (2) Zarina
3. (3) She’s A Keeper
4. (4) Sparkling Water
SPOOK EXPRESS STAKES
1. (8) Quiet Rebellion
2 (6) She’s A Cracker
3 (1) Smokey Hot
4. (2) Opera Glass
1st Race: (3) Forgotten Time (2) Integrate (11) Victory Of Dubai (1) Earl Of Cardigan
2nd Race: (1) In The Ether (3) La Banquiere (2) Special Plea (5) Lil Wahoo
3rd Race: (1) Lady Osier (5) Kiss To Dream (3) Mon Tresor (2) Mercurial Jet
4rd Race: (1) Mike The Pilot (5) Big Five (11) Sugar Beach (3) Triple Decker
5th Race: (8) Mansooriya (3) Elusive Rocket (1) Cape Bouquet (9) Vaguely Familiar
6th Race: (12) Positive Attitude (2) Chasing Mavericks (4) Grand Escape (5) Gimme A Dream
7th Race: (1) Double Magic (2) Fulliautomatix (9) Quick Run (7) Forever Free
8th Race: (11) Beaded Gown (3) Mandalay (6) Smelting (2) British Diva
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