Brett Crawford joined Mike de Kock on five Grade 1’s for the season, one behind the six of Sean Tarry, when Captain America won the Grade 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge (1600m) at Greyville under his regular pilot Corné Orffer.
This race and the Grade 3 Cup Trial (1800m), which was won by the Justin Snaith-trained Elusive Silva, made the Vodacom Durban July picture a touch clearer.
However, the panellists who have to choose the final field face an unenviable task.
Corne Orffer, picture Nkosi Hlophe
Captain America’s two career Grade 1 wins have now both been in weight-for-age over 1600m. However, his only attempt at the July as a three-year-old colt in 2014 can be ignored as he jumped awkwardly and lost a length and then over raced. As a relaxed six-year-old gelding his headstrong antics are now a thing of the past.
In this year’s Sun Met he had to be used up early to find the lead from a wide draw, yet was only caught at the 150m mark. However, he was hardly tiring as he rallied to finish third. Furthermore, it was the fastest run Met since the first of Pocket Power’s Met victories in 2007.
Another tick for Captain America’s stamina capacity can be found when viewing his Cape Derby run in 2014, where he over raced throughout but still managed to stay on strongly for second to Legislate.
The Conglomerate (AUS) showed last year that being handy in the July can be an advantage and it is easy to imagine Captain America running a similar race to last year’s winning one. However, against him will be the topweight he will have to carry. He is currently merit rated 116 and might get a point or two for Saturday’s win.
The line horse is likely to either be the consistent 1.75 length third-placed Bela-Bela or the 2.5 length fourth-placed Sail South, who proved his Queen’s Plate run was no fluke. Captain America ran to about a 117 compared to Bela-Bela. However, she was a touch unlucky and that might be taken into account. Compared to Sail South, Captain America ran to about a 118 or 119.
However, it might be taken into account that coming from the back at Greyville gave Sail South less time to make up the leeway than he had at Kenilworth, where he was 0.75 lengths behind Captain America in the Queen’s Plate.
Elusive Silva, picture Nkosi Hlophe
Betting World reacted by chopping Captain America from 33/1 to 14/1. Marinaresco had every chance from a midfield position, but faded tamely when it counted and behind the strong pace he would have preferred to have been further back. He has drifted out to 8-1. Bela-Bela’s running was taken up briefly at a crucial moment at the top of the straight, so her third was an outstanding effort. However, the bookmakers still have her at 25/1 and the reason might be the Grade 1 WFA Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes (1600m) still being an option for her on the big day.
The Conglomerate stayed on under a sympathetic ride and it was a pleasing preparation for the defence of his July crown, where he will have a fine chance at the weights. Saratoga Dancer was perhaps a bit too handy in a strongly paced race and didn’t find extra in the closing stages. However, he was in 13th place on the log so might be safe.
Brazuca was doing his best work late in quite an eye catching preparation and in 11th position on the log should get in. Master Sabina, who as the Summer Cup winner has likely booked his place, was also doing good work late. French Navy has never been one to run well fresh, but his well below par run will have been concerning for his supporters just three weeks away from the big race.
In the Cup Trial Elusive Silva booked his place in the July by quickening well off a slow pace and just pipping the pacemaker Crowd Pleaser. Third-placed Black Arthur will be the biggest headache for the panellists. They will attempt to find a place for him as he is 10/1 in the July betting and has enjoyed a fine preparation. After all, they did find a place for both Futura and Saratoga Dancer in recent years after they had finished third and fourth respectively in the Cup Trial.
Also in the Cup Trial Nebula’s chances of making the final field disappeared. He was on the outside looking in on the log. He had the box seat in the running on Saturday, but in a slow-paced race could not match the finishing speed of the first three and ended second last in the nine horse field. The only horse he beat home was Master Switch, who was also on the outside looking in on the log, but he is just not the same horse at Greyville as he is at Turffontein and this was his fourth unplaced run at the Durban course in four starts.
Trophy Wife attracted controversy when emitted from the final field last year, but this year there will be no repeat. She lost ground at the start and then swished her tail. She finished well, but the slow pace of the race worked against her and she could only manage sixth place, which won’t be enough to book a place. The long-striding Royal Badge can also be considered unlucky to have encountered a slow pace as he finished strongly from off the pace for fifth, which won’t be enough to persuade the panellists.
Nightingale ran on well for second in the Grade 2 Tibouchina (1400m) to keep her July hopes alive, but Silver Mountain will drop out of contention after being eased out of the race.
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