It may be difficult to conceive, but it’s just possible that Summerhill could be in the running for it’s second consecutive victory in Africa’s richest horse race on the first weekend in May. Last year, PICK SIX showed his worth in a Summerhill exacta, from EMPEROR NAPOLEON, and while he was well beaten on Saturday by his stable companion, OUR GIANT over 1450m, indicating that at his present level of well-being, he may have difficulty closing the gap, that doesn’t leave us without hope.
EMPEROR NAPOLEON’s big run in the Hawaii Stakes (Gr2) the previous weekend signalled a serious intent after his breathing woes, and he’ll certainly be in the mix. However, the one that prompted the excitement this week was CATMANDU, who delivered a flying finish off the second top weight in the Drum Star Handicap (L) over 1800m on Saturday, coming from last to get within ¾ length of Gr1 winner, SILVER POINT.
There had been plenty of speculation in the racing press before the event about CATMANDU’s vulnerability at the trip, as he’d shown such speed when limited to sprint distances. However, his grandam on his sire, MAKAAREM’s side, distinguished herself in two Group Ones at 2000m and 2400m in France, while his own dam GYPSEY SPIRIT is a daughter of American Belmont Stakes (2400m) hero, COASTAL. But that’s not the lot; his great grandam was a daughter of the out-and-out stayer BUSTED, and if you delve a bit further into the pedigree, not too far back, you’ll find the celebrated names of TEENOSO (English Derby), OLD COUNTRY (Italian Derby) and GIVE THANKS (Irish Oaks).
Whether he has the class at this stage to win the Gommagomma (over Turffontein’s tortuous 2000m) or not, only time will tell, but it’s unlikely that stamina will be a limiting factor. Certainly, if he makes the cut on the evidence of Saturday’s race, he’ll be in the betting because the Gommagomma has a big enough spread in the weights to give a man like CATMANDU a fighting chance. And that’s all our fellows need!
To recap then, it looks like PICK SIX, EMPEROR NAPOLEON, and CATMANDU are likely to carry the flag. That in itself will be just about 20% of the whole field, and in a race where it’s a privilege simply to have a runner, most people would settle for an entry of this quality.