Nother Russia, a close-up third in last Saturday’s Gr1 Premier’s Champion Challenge, was one of the first casualties at first acceptances for the R4.25 Gr1 Vodacom Durban July on Monday.
It did not come as a surprise however, as master trainer Mike de Kock had already indicated over the weekend that she was unlikely to take her chances in the July.
12 horses were withdrawn at first acceptances but punters had some sifting to do after this last weekend’s racing with 30 of the original 58 horses in action.
In the card opener at Turffontein on Saturday, Sean Tarry’s runner Bold Viking ran a cracker over the Turffontein mile, going down a short head to the year older Cashin but giving the impression that he is looking for 10 furlongs.
He had fellow July entry Rocketball behind him who was staying on and will also prefer further. But this was a modest handicap.
Orchid Island, favourite for the Gr2 Wilgerbosdrift SA Oaks, and Smiling Blue Eyes did themselves no favours as Wind Chill ran them off their feet with Bi Pot, a close-up third to Orchid Island in the Gr1 SA Fillies Classic, doing the best of them but well beaten.
The trio look to have some work to do at this stage.
Tarry took out Furiosa on Monday after a disappointing showing in the Gr1 SA Derby, but stable companion Al Sahem stamped himself as a strong contender, winning readily under Anthony Delpech.
Delpech, one of the most successful jockeys in the history of the July, will have a wide choice of rides for the event and if he sticks with Al Sahem the inference will be obvious. The bookmakers obviously concur with Al Sahem’s price cut from 25-1 to second favourite in the ante-post market to 15-2.
Heavenly Blue and Pagoda did well enough but unless there is more to come from the pair then Al Sahem should have their measure on their Derby showing.
Al Sahem, picture JC Photographics
The Gr1 Premier’s Champion Challenge saw seven potential July runners in action, but Celtic Captain and Nother Russia were first out on Monday.
Deo Juvente and Master Sabina both ran good races but Greyville remains a bogey for both while French Navy is showing signs of returning to his best form and is one to watch, having won the Gr1 Daily News 2000 at Greyville and Tarry has a happy knock of priming the right horse for the right race.
If you are willing to risk a few bob at this early stage then French Navy could be worth an each way wager at around 30-1.
With Heaps Of Fun an early casualty for the July, Girl On The Run and Trophy Wife were the only July contenders left in the Gr 3 Gerald Rosenberg Stakes. Girl On The Run finished a length-and-a-bit clear of Trophy wife but winner Polyphonic, although consistent, has recently twice finished behind Nother Russia and on that line of form, Girl On The Run and Trophy Wife are hopeful entries.
The Gr2 Daisy Guineas and Gr2 Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes sent out mixed messages.
Piere Strydom was peerless in dictating the pace of the Guineas in spite of his mount taking him for a ride up front, but Secret Captain, ridden from on the pace for the first time, stayed on well enough to suggest that he will stay the eleven furlongs of the July but the Daily News 2000 should provide confirmation. The perennially-placed Zodiac Ruler was finishing strongly in third.
French Navy, picture Nkosi Hlophe
He finished second in the Gr1 Investec Cape Derby, so does get a trip, and could find himself amongst the fancied runners come July 1.
Horizon’s unplaced effort saw him on the drift. He was as short as 9-1 at one stage but there is plenty of 16-1 now available. Ridden from off the pace, he found little in the straight, but the jury is still out on this one.
The Drill Hall saw a blanket finish with Marinaresco poking his nose in front when it mattered most from Victorious Jay – not a July entry – and the always game Saratoga Dancer.
There was very little separating first from last and over a trip short of most of the July contenders best, the result could prove misleading
Captain America was running on well enough and behind the front rank, Black Arthur was finishing well enough to suggest some major improvement to come.
Ten Gun Salute, eased out of the race late, was diagnosed with a pulled back muscle, so he faces an uphill battle to be ready for the big one.
The 12 horses scratched so far are Star Express, Belle Rose, Furiosa, Heaps Of Fun, Samurai Blade, Celtic Captain, Dawn Calling, Juxtapose, Hamaan, Fort Ember, Nother Russia
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