Thunder Key
(Photo : Gold Circle)

As a country with something of an obsession for speed, the South African racing calendar honours our sprinting talent on a regular basis. No gathering of the nation’s best sprinters however, expresses this more forcibly than the Festival Of Speed, a four race bonanza of Grade One events scheduled for this weekend. The top event on the card is always the Golden Horse Casino Sprint, which has been thrown open this year by the early retirement of Summerhill-bred, Rebel King, and his stable companion, Warm White Night. Nonetheless, the farm is represented by Pegasus Emblem, bred and raised here for our long-serving patrons, Malcolm Wishart and Luigi Cirigiliano, while Muhtafal has the game winner of his last start, Thunder Key, under starter’s orders.

While the betting for the S.A. Fillies’ Sprint is likely to be dominated by Charles Laird’s Merlene de Largo (four wins from five starts to date), Bruce Gardiner and Co’s Lisa Anne (Summerhill-bred by the late lamented Rambo Dancer) makes her Grade One debut for the Alexander stable under the capable tutelage of Kevin Shea. Also in the field (and not without a squeak) is Anthony Delpech’s mount, Noble Heir (by Kahal), a promising second to Moccachino in Gauteng’s Camellia Stakes just over a month ago.

Kahal’s loss is Malhub’s gain:

Rare for a race in which we’ve supplied two of the last three winners, we are without a runner in the Gold Reef Medallion (for two-year-colts). The field is packed with the progeny of the first season sire, Var, and two interesting runners by leading Australian sires, Redoute’s Choice and Exceed and Excel for Mike de Kock and Charles Laird respectively. The form here is not that well exposed, and the winner could come from any quarter.

Turning to the subject of our headline, ‘Kahal’s loss is Malhub’s gain’, the Alan Robertson Fillies Championship (for Juvenile Fillies) has been robbed of its one star attraction in the form of Kahal’s daughter, Spring Clover, widely touted as the top juvenile filly in the country. This does however open the race to a number of possibilities, and a strong claim can be made for Malhub’s talented daughters, Ashjaan (bred at Summerhill for Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stud), who was just a length and a quarter behind Spring Clover in their last meeting, and the unbeaten Onehundredacrewood, both graduates of the Summerhill draft at last November’s Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run, where they cost R190 000 and R85 000 respectively.

We’d have to concede that for a horse of his own world-class, Malhub’s first crop was something of a disappointment to us, but he has more than made up for it with his second crop of juveniles, in much the same way as our standard-bearer Northern Guest, did in his time. Three of Malhub’s 2009 models have already earned Black type, and the fourth (Onehundredacrewood), is thus far unbeaten.

By Monday morning, it’s possible Malhub might’ve ascended back to the heights of that memorable day at Royal Ascot, when he got to meet The Queen after slaughtering the champions Johannesburg and Invincible Sprit in the Golden Jubilee Sprint (Gr.1).