Analytical horseplayers are conditioned to follow the top jockeys and trainers on big race days. ‘Nothing succeeds like success,” is a well-worn truism and, indeed, it’s usually the high-ranking connections who dominate prestigious races. Yet, Saturday’s Jonsson Workwear Cape Derby (Grade 1) features an unbeaten, odds-on favourite, the outstanding Elusive Fort colt, Kommetdieding, prepared by Michelle Rix and ridden by Sihle Cele, both low profile professionals whose humble winning strike rate percentages are in single digits.
Kommetdieding, a bargain buy off Klawervlei Stud, will try stay perfect after four imposing victories between 1200m and 1800m, achieved on soft and good going. Rix and her father, the grizzly veteran Harold Crawford have handled their versatile charge impeccably thus far, with Cele doing a comfortable steering job on each occasion. The bay with a burgeoning fan club of local supporters tries 2000m for the first time and confronts the strongest opposition he’s faced to date – this 2021 Cape Derby represents a precious, and pressurized, opportunity to prove his real worth.
Challengers are stacked up though, should Kommetdieding succumb to stage fright. Cape Guineas winner Russian Rock and two placed horses from that Classic, Linebacker and Rascallion both pose threats, as does late- charging, The Gatekeeper who finished fastest of all in that same race.
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 despite being taken up and switching at a crucial stage. Rascallion had legitimate excuses after being sandwiched when making his move there, and this consistently high quality, three year-old may improve with a more assertive passage. 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. Stable mate, Linebacker is as game as could be, but there are queries over his ability to cope with this longer route.
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. He is extremely talented with great upside potential so must be taken seriously. Justin Snaith trained stable- companion, Hoedspruit also has a shake based on encouraging back form displayed in the Concorde Cup.
Legitimate has place claims, though the manner in which Kommetdieding conceded weight and swept past him in the Politician Stakes puts his chances into perspective. Fire Alley shows neat ability and by stretching out over further could be an exotic tote-buster worth using at long odds in the lower slots of Trifectas and Quartets.
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 Happy Aristocrat.