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The big attraction in long-distance races with big fields like the Grand National and Gold Cup is that they afford punters — and pundits — a chance to find a long-shot which could reward backers at a big price.
A horse which falls into this category in Saturday’s Marshalls World of Sport Gold Cup at HollywoodbetsGreyville is Corné Spies’s stayer, Imperial Ruby. The gelding is 50-1 (and 8-1 a place) with bookmaker Lance Michael so it is understandable if readers feel this writer has had a dram too many of the Scottish stuff.
However, a case can be made for Imperial Ruby finishing in the first four. The five-year-old finished just a length behind Black Thorn in the Gold Vase and is now 1,5kg better off. Sean Tarry’s four-year-old is third favourite in the betting market at 9-2.
Of course, if the betting is correct — and it may well be — the 3,200m marathon is a three-cornered contest between Aragosta and Tarry’s strong coupling of Nebraas and Black Thorn.
Aragosta is an interesting contender as he bids to provide Mike de Kock and S’manga Khumalo with the July-Gold Cup double. It will be the first time Khumalo has ridden the son of Rafeef.
This will be Aragosta’s first attempt at this trip, but he is out of a Galileo mare which suggests he will be staying on when others have cried enough.
Nebraas — winner of seven of his 20 starts — has earned his position as favourite and is reunited with Richard Fourie who was in the saddle for the gelding’s Gold Bowl win at Turffontein in April.
Fourie will have a pretty good idea how his mount stands with Aragosta as he partnered De Kock’s three-year-old to victory in the SA Derby.
Keagan De Melo has built a good rapport with Black Thorn and there are many who believe that his stablemate, Nebraas, might battle to concede him 6kg. He has proved the distance will hold no fears for him.
Shango completes the Tarry trio but preference is for Paul Peter’s charge, Shangani, who beat him in the Lonsdale in May and can confirm the form. Victory for Warren Kennedy’s mount would be the cherry on top of a magnificent season for both the jockey and trainer Peter.
Rex Union — narrowly in front of Imperial Ruby in the Gold Vase — has each-way prospects for the Dean Kannemeyer stable though Imperial Ruby beat him in April and is better off at the weights.
The quartet paid a huge dividend in the Durban July and — unless the top three in the betting are all placed — another big payout is on the cards.
With Justin Snaith bullish of a big run, Jet Dark can win his first race since the Queen’s Plate when he takes on Kommetdieding in the grade 1 HKJC World Pool Champions Cup.
“Kommet” has a length to find with Jet Dark on July form and — as they meet on identical terms — the chances are Snaith’s colt will win this R1m contest for the second year running.
Linebacker’s no show in the July was the shock of the race but he was cut into and didn’t get the smoothest of passages. In his favour, he hails from a top stable but definitely comes with risks attached.
This column’s best bet at the meeting is Lucky Houdalakis’s filly, None Other, who looks a cracking each-way bet at odds of 8-1 in the Thekwini Stakes. Anyone who witnessed the win by the daughter of Flower Alley at Turffontein will know she will love the step up to 1,600m.
With Ameena drawn near the beach, the Kennedy-Peter combination have to be feared again as Bless My Stars trounced her rivals on her Vaal debut. Time Fo Orchids should be a player from a favourable draw and Hold My Hand is a course and distance winner.
In the final event on the card, Fourie could crown a successful meeting by winning on Isivunguvungu though don’t be surprised if 16-1 chance Gallic Chief takes a hand in the finish.
1st Race: (11) Silvano’s Timer (8) Gentleman’s Wager (4) Indlamu (2) Look For Hounds
2nd Race: (6) Gobsmacked (2) Antigua Night (12) Bevies Delight (1) Totally Rocks
3rd Race: (8) Captain Bombshell (5) Mercantour (3) Ridgerunner (4) Formagear
4th Race: (8) None Other (5) Bless My Stars (3) Time Fo Orchids (2) Hold My Hand
5th Race: (1) Quantum Theory (9) Cousin Casey (5) Laguna Verde (2) Royal Victory
6th Race: (3) Captain’s Ransom (8) Master Archie (10) William Robertson (14) Gallic Princess
7th Race: (10) Imperial Ruby (4) Nebraas (7) Aragosta (5) Black Thorn
8th Race: (5) Jet Dark (4) Kommetdieding (8) Linebacker (6) Al Muthana
9th Race: (10) Marina (12) Sprinkles (6) Pink Tourmaline (7) Silver Maria
10th Race: (5) Isivunguvungu (8) Gallic Chief (3) After The Rain (9) Anna Capri
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.