There can’t be too many race meetings in the world that boast eight Graded Stakes races, yet that’s what racegoers can look forward to Saturday at Turffontein, and if the last few months are anything to go by, we can count on some big hitting contests. For Summerhill, we have sixteen footsoldiers on duty in the Graded races, but for the time being, we’ll concentrate our comments on the three Grade Ones, kicking off with the top-biller, the Champions Challenge (Gr.1) for all of R2 million.
There are a lot of pundits who would make the quartet of Smart Banker, Likeithot, Senor Versace and Crown Of Power from the Charles Laird stable a “shoe-in” for the laurels, but we’re not sure it’s that cut and dried. Much will be claimed by the connections of Buy And Sell, Surfin’ USA (whose mother Fenn Tarbitt-owned Palm Beach Gold is a resident mare at Summerhill), Forest Path and Zirconium, while Ormond Ferraris will be hoping that his gallant mare, She’s On Fire, is able to reproduce the run which carried her into second spot last year.
Charles Laird may well have four aspirants engaged in the big one, but we’re not without our own hopes, headed up by the horse that managed second place in the event a year ago, Catmandu, on-fire Thandolwami, and the heroine of the prestigious Gerald Rosenberg Stakes at her last start, Spring Garland, while Steve Sturlese’s El Padrino rounds it out. There are some doubts about the stamina limitations of Thandolwami and El Padrino, but the former has managed a decent draw for the first time in heavens-knows-how long, and he seems to have a love for Turffontein and its long strait. How many times has this fellow been beaten by the fact that he’s run out of space at Greyville, and we only have to go back to November to see him running within a quarter length of Likeithot on precisely the same weight terms as they meet on Saturday? For what it’s worth, Hartford hosted Champion Jockey, Anthony Delpech over the Election holiday, and he believes only altitude can deny Thandolwami his due. Some recommendation from a world class rider.
The fact is, Summerhill graduates make up 25% of the field in what is one of the richest races in the nation, and that tells you all you need to know about their upbringings.