There was no more than a neck separating Marinaresco and Captain America in the Drill Hall Stakes last month and there is unlikely to be much more in it when they clash in the R1m, Grade 1 WFA Rising Sun Gold Challenge (1600m) at Greyville on Saturday. Toss in a few other distance specialists and you have the makings of one of the races of South African Champions Season.
Marinaresco is something of a Greyville specialist where his instant turn of foot is well suited to the relatively short Greyville home straight, well illustrated last season in both the Vodacom Durban July and the Mike and Carol Bass Champion Stakes.
Marinaresco, picture Liesl King
More recent evidence was in the Drill Hall where he finished like a bullet to collar Victorious Jay with Saratoga Dancer, New Predator and Captain America in close attendance. Candice Bass-Robinson has indicated that the son of Silvano would be more at home over an extended trip but he was good enough to win over 1400m in the Drill Hall and tomorrow’s 1600m should be well within his compass – his turn of foot being a lethal weapon.
Captain America is arguably at his best over 1600m and is a ‘bull’ of a horse. He finished behind Marinaresco in the Greenpoint Stakes and ahead of him in both the L ‘Ormarins Queen’s Plate and the Sun Met before finishing at his girth in the Drill Hall.
What may just swing things in Marinaresco’s favour is his better draw and obvious liking for Greyville. At time of writing he was favourite at 5-2 but Captain America has found market support and 5-1 look good odds given the current form of the two.
Alongside Captain America in the betting is the grey Bela-Bela. Justin Snaith’s filly ran a cracker in the recent Gr1 SA Fillies Sprint behind Carry On Alice and has excellent form over both distance and course. She is currently seventh on the Vodacom Durban July log but takes on some crack male milers here and will need to be at her best to triumph.
Saratoga Dancer, picture Nkosi Hlophe
New Predator put in a tremendous effort for Johan Janse van Vuuren when out to defend his title in the Drill Hall, finishing a close-up fourth. He has found some inspired market support but 14 is most often a coffin draw over the Greyville mile so he has it all to do.
Saratoga Dancer generally flies under the radar and many questioned his participation in last year’s Vodacom Durban July. He silenced his critics in the best way possible, touched off two short heads to finish fifth.
He had Marinaresco in his sights all through the running of the Drill Hall and ran New Predator to within a length in the November Handicap at Turffontein. Given his record and at around 16-1 he looks excellent value.
The front-running Janoobi has struck up an excellent rapport with Piere Strydom, winning both the Gauteng Guineas and the Daisy Guineas, but he has a much more difficult task this time around especially from a tricky draw.
The R250,000, Grade 3 Cup Trial (1800m) will be a no-quarter-given affair with a place in the Vodacom Durban July at stake for most of the contenders. Black Arthur, Elusive Silva and Nebula are all among the fancied runners in the July market but far from certain of a place so it’s all on the line here.
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