Talk about tsunamis, you only have to put money on the table when it comes to a horserace, and the fur is bound to fly; I doubt there’s ever been an invitational log issued for a major prize in racing, which hasn’t attracted an outcry. While handicapping is supposed to be scientific, you’re dealing with flesh and blood here, and you can never be certain; even then, the selection panel for the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup two Saturday’s hence, carrying the biggest prize money in South African history, has a different assignment on their hands. Their mandate is to select the top twenty horses (sixteen with a run) to contest the 1400 metres of the standside track on the turf at Turffontein on the first Saturday in November, which does not necessarily mean the top twenty merit-rated runners.
There was a time when invitations to the big races elicited court cases, pub brawls and dog-fights, so it’s gratifying to know that there’s a slightly (and just ever so slightly) more genteel approach to the process these days. That said, because the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup was initiated by Summerhill and the sponsors, the public perception seems to be that we may be “influential” in the selections as a result, so we field several calls every Monday morning when the log is published. Of course, the whole show would be a farce if we could influence the outcome, yet it doesn’t stop the debates from raging, and at times, it gets warm in the kitchen!
There have been a few big moves on the log in the past week, and at face value, some of them might be puzzling, though without a detailed study of the form, we’re not really in a position to cast a judgment. The big movers have been Mike de Kock’s Dreamuponadream (24th to 4th), Gary Alexander’s The Elmo Effect (18th to 6th) and Duncan Howell’s Saratoga Dancer (39th to 17th), while Sean Tarry’s Hyaku made up six places from 25th to 19th and his other entry, Tamaanee leapt from 17th to 12th. The biggest drifters of the week were Gavin Van Zyl’s Iwo Jima (5th to 14th) and Mike de Kock’s Kingmambo’s Legacy (7th to 13th). Van Zyl’s Pioneer Spirit has justifiably held his spot at number three, following a promising comeback sprint over the inner track at Turffontein ten days ago, though given that he jumped from the outside slot in the same race, and was not far adrift of Pioneer Spirit, it seems illogical that while retaining his merit-rating of 90, Iwo Jima has dropped so far in the log.
It’s also been suggested in local circles that KZN-based horses, which are confined to competing on the all-weather surface at Greyville at present, might be suffering for the fact that their form isn’t on turf: while such an approach might be justified if they’d been running on the sand at the Vaal, most pundits seem to think that the tapeta surface is not dissimilar to the turf; it follows; if that is correct, that parallels should be drawn between the turf and the all-weather, otherwise locally based horses are at a terrible disadvantage, without an alternate surface on which to stake their claims.
The biggest mover of the lot was the A.P. Arrow colt, Thirtytwo Squadron, who romped up (on the tapeta) by 4.5 lengths on Sunday for Charles Laird and our old mate, Alesh Naidoo, planting himself at 18th on the log, while easing down at the finish. It’s arguable that if Kevin Shea had ridden him out and the margin of victory was another two or three lengths, (which was possible, given the way he travelled) he would’ve found himself bang in the middle of those with a run; whatever, he could hardly have been more impressive in the way he did it. Pity if he doesn’t get to Jo’ burg, because he looks like a horse on the move.
The selection panel have an unenviable task, and none of us would want the job for any money. No doubt, Roger Smith’s line has been burning all week, because nobody can ignore the fact that come the first Saturday in November, they’ll be running for near enough R50,000 a second when the gates slam open. That makes it the richest 85 seconds in African sport, and even the best of us couldn’t sniff at that.
R3.85 MILLION EMPERORS PALACE READY TO RUN CUP
Turffontein, Turf, 1400m | 1 November 2014
Log as at 21 October 2014
|1||RICH GIRL||F||55.5||104||Charles Laird|
|2||SILVER CLASS||F||55.5||91||Johan Janse Van Vuuren|
|3||PIONEER SPIRIT||C||58.0||92||Gavin van Zyl|
|4||DREAMUPONADREAM||G||58.0||89||Mike de Kock|
|5||LAVA FLOW||C||58.0||88||Mike de Kock|
|6||THE ELMO EFFECT||C||58.0||83||Gary Alexander|
|7||KOSAVA||F||55.5||84||Mike de Kock|
|8||BELLE SPUMANTE||F||55.5||85||Brett Crawford|
|9||RED STAR||F||55.5||83||Mike Azzie|
|10||NISA'S MACHINE (AUS)||C||58.0||86||Charles Laird|
|11||CAPTAIN'S ORDERS||C||58.0||85||Joey Ramsden|
|12||TAMAANEE (AUS)||F||55.5||80||Sean Tarry|
|13||KINGMAMBO'S LEGACY||G||58.0||88||Mike de Kock|
|14||IWO JIMA||C||58.0||90||Gavin van Zyl|
|15||JOCK SILBERSTEIN||G||58.0||85||Joe Soma|
|16||CHILI CHOCOLATE||F||55.5||80||Johan Janse Van Vuuren|
|17||SARATOGA DANCER||C||58.0||78||Duncan Howells|
|18||THIRTYTWO SQUADRON||C||58.0||82||Charles Laird|
|20||GREATEST HITS||G||58.0||82||Mike de Kock|
|Below The Line|
|AL COUTURE||C||58.0||0||Weiho Marwing|
|CAPTAIN COYOTE||C||58.0||78||Mike Azzie|
|CELTIC HEROINE||F||55.5||77||David Rahilly|
|CHINA BEACH||F||55.5||74||Lucky Houdalakis|
|FLYING CROSS||F||55.5||72||Robbie Hill|
|GOLD CUP GIRL||F||55.5||79||Roy Magner|
|MISTY WINTER||F||55.5||73||Mike Azzie|
|OI YOI YOI||F||55.5||75||Mark Dixon|
|RAMPANT ICE||C||58.0||0||Weiho Marwing|
|SPUTNIK SWEETHEART||F||55.5||77||Stephen Moffatt|
|WESTERN MUSIC||F||55.5||77||Duncan Howells|
Summerhill Runners denoted by yellow
National Horseracing Authority
Correct as at 21/10/14