With the unfortunate scratching of ante-post odds- on favourite, Kommetdieding on Thursday due to an over-reach injury, a slew of challengers are now stacked up for Grade 1 honours in Saturday’s Jonsson Workwear Cape Derby over 2000m. Cape Guineas winner Russian Rock and two placed horses from that contest, Linebacker and Rascallion become principal candidates, as does late- charging, The Gatekeeper who finished fastest of all in that same race.

Rascallion had legitimate excuses after being sandwiched when making his move in the Guineas and this consistently high quality three year-old may benefit from more assertive tactics to keep out of trouble. Vaughan Marshall’s entry deserves a change of fortune after a series of tough beats when either being ridden too far off them or getting hampered in deep stretch.

A feisty character, Rascallion does tend to get worked up before his races and gelding may ultimately be the answer before a long range intended tilt at the Durban July. Meanwhile, according to trainer Marshall, “Rascallion’s prep has gone well for this race and he looks a picture.”” If maintaining his mental equilibrium on the day and enjoying luck in running under Anton Marcus, then this striking Vercingetorix colt could be the solution.

Dean Kannemeyer’s Russian Rock may have sprung a 100/1 upset but there was nothing fluky about the Guineas win as he out-finished rivals with a dramatic surge, despite being taken up and switching at a crucial stage. He is undoubtedly a class act, yet not an easy horse to ride, tending to pull with a high head carriage. Russian Rock is also unproven over the distance – pedigree buffs reckon however it should be within the scope of this handsome grey son of Durban July winner, Pomodoro.

Linebacker is as game as could be, but there are queries over his ability to cope with this longer route. After winning on debut, he’s finished second at four subsequent Feature race starts so is another due for a change in luck. Maybe world class jock, Grant van Niekerk can extract that little bit extra in a game where the margins between boom and bust are tantalisingly fine.

New ante-post favourite, The Gatekeeper came from a hopeless position in the Guineas, when positioned in the rear from a wide draw in a race run slow early. That visually impressive swift stretch run reveals he is extremely talented with great upside potential. The Gatekeeper already has a victory over accomplished older horse Golden Ducat to his credit, so must be afforded due respect.

Justin Snaith trained stable- companion, Hoedspruit also has a shake based on encouraging back form displayed in the Concorde Cup when he hurtled through after being badly baulked, in an against- the- track- bias performance that was nearly as eye catching as Rascallion’s.

Legitimate has place claims over a longer route which should suit nicely, though he faces a stiffer task at the weights compared to the Politician Stakes. Fire Alley shows neat ability and could be an exotic tote-buster worth using at long odds. On official ratings he’s a no hoper, but he nearly beat Russian Rock earlier in his career and was not far off Queen’s Plate winning contemporary, Jet Dark in November.  Fire Alley has also been producing impressive finishing ratios over shorter trips so can gate-crash his way into the fray.

The Khaya Stables Diadem Stakes (Grade 2) boasts a proud honours’’ roll of some of South Africa’s finest sprinters. Kasimir and Russet Air are former champion speedballs that have won G1’s around the country whilst winning 15 races between them, so accordingly sport the highest official merit ratings in this testing 1200m Weight for Age contest.

Neither have been at their absolute best this season however, which opens the door for Justin Snaith’s in-form Rio Querari to secure a break-through win, after hitting the crossbar in the Merchants and Flying Champs. This super-consistent Querari gelding is a muscular ball of energy capable of really turning on the after-burners and ripping through slick come- home sectionals. Provided a career-best effort when defeated by star mare, Run Fox Run in the Flying Champs has not taken too much out of him, Rio Querari can justify 15/10 odds in the Diadem.

Kenilworth’s finale to the Summer Season also features three G3 races. A varied program starts with the Cape of Good Hope Nursery and Fillies Nursery. Ambiorix was mightily impressive when sauntering home on debut, earning a very smart speed figure. He could be the solution to the colts’’ edition. Danilo Danilovitch and upwardly mobile, Cosmic Highway rate as plausible dangers.

Juveniles are notoriously difficult to work out given that they can improve dramatically from one start to the next. Maybe, Gimme Dat can overcome Winter Mosaic and Live my Life in the Fillies Nursery with unexposed, Super Siri also a possibility in a contentious 1200m event.

The Vasco Prix du Cap has attracted a full field of 15 where a superficial overview shows multiple G1 winning mare, Clouds Unfold towering above her rivals on official ratings. The high- class daughter of What a Winter has won 9 of 20 starts, is well suited by a true run 1400m and can use her powerful finishing burst to again zap the opposition.

A possible knock against Candice Bass Robinson’s charge is that she’s endured a seriously tough sequence of races this Summer, tangling with formidable adversaries Captain’s Ransom, Belgarion and Queen Supreme. Clouds Unfold will need to summon up yet another taxing effort conceding lumps of weight to some lively young upstarts.

La Quinta appeals having the right profile as a rapidly progressive type primed for a peak performance; Zarina is a spirited filly with smart form over the course and distance; Caya Coco is lightly raced at intervals and drawn wide (which is concerning,) but she boasts a rare win over the sensational, Captain’s Ransom on her C.V.

Amongst the older entries, Sleeping Single might get into the fray though she has an even worse draw than Caya Coco out at 15 and is a few lengths shy of Clouds Unfold on exposed form. Capitana has won half of her eight starts and represents a high percentage combination of Brett Crawford/Anton Marcus, but she too is held safe at the weights by Clouds Unfold.

Saturday’s card concludes with an innovative Khaya Stables sponsored initiative pitting Work Riders vs Jockeys in a full field Maiden down the straight course. There are many competing lines of form in this tricky cavalry charge which is the closing leg to the P6. A wider spread is advised for perms. At a bare minimum, the suggestion is to include these contenders; Queen Niyabah, Pretty Betty, Wordsworth, Paper Trail and T’’Challa.

Words: Mark van Deventer

Photos: Chase Liebenberg