SA’s best thoroughbreds step out in fitting showdowns over the two day meet.

That sort of form could prove superior to anything…

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions barring fans from on- course attendance, racing’s purists and punters will be focussed attentively on TV’s and live streaming aids for the 160th edition of the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (G1) being held at Kenilworth on 9 January 2021. This historic feature race with an awesome Honours Roll – practically a “Who’s Who” of South Africa’s finest milers over the decades, is backed up by the G1 Cartier Paddock Stakes and G2 Premier Trophy, both high quality 1800m events.

The L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate stars eight runners, with 42 victories between them, loading into the starting stalls come 4pm Saturday. Principal candidates include 2020 Durban July hero, Belgarion, 2019 Met victor Rainbow Bridge and 2019 Queen’s Plate and dual July winner, Do It Again.

Belgarion (sired by Dynasty) and Do It Again (by Twice Over) are trained by Justin Snaith who is relishing a rip-roaring start to the season. The first named has been totally straightforward since being gelded – winning one race after another between 1600m and 2200m and he will be trying to extend that sequence to seven consecutive wins. If he can reprise his fluent Green Point Stakes performance over the course and distance when besting Rainbow Bridge, then he looks like the one to beat.

Do It Again is an enigmatic character, imbued with serious talent but possessed by temperamental and physical quirks which have occasionally derailed his best endeavours. The excellent speed score he attained when defeating Soqrat two years ago in this race was precisely the same as that recently recorded by Belgarion in his Green Point show of strength, so it should be a fascinating clash between brilliant stable companions.

Rainbow Bridge was only half a length off Belgarion when also commencing his Cape campaign in the Green Point and ran a close third in this race last year to Vardy. His overall record of 8 wins from 19 starts withstands scrutiny as he’s been consistently dependable at the top level throughout his career – a credit to the conditioning skills of Eric Sands. The son of Ideal World has a high-percentage style of racing – cruising handily just off the early tempo then able to blitz through rapid closing sectionals. He is a major player.

Of the others, only Sean Tarry’s Cirillo seems up to the task of possibly winning. It’s conceivable that Hurricane Harry will be used by Snaith as a pace setter to ensure a genuine rhythm for his hold up runners, Belgarion and Do It Again. This could enable Cirillo, who has plenty of natural speed, to stalk and pounce when opportune. He finished upsides of Rainbow Bridge and just a half-length off Belgarion in the Green Point after racing upfront and is a threat again fitted with blinkers.

Jet Dark is the sole three year-old in the race. He caught the eye with a flourishing finish to be fourth in a false-run Cape Guineas behind Russian Rock, proving that he has a potent turn of foot. The youngster is obviously progressing quickly but on exposed form it’s hard to see him beating off older legends in this Weight For Age challenge.

Lightly campaigned, Silver Operator is on the improve and did get within spitting distance of Belgarion, albeit when receiving six kg’s early in their respective careers. However, he looks light on the figures needed to win a G1 mile against the best. Likewise, Sovereign Spirit received weight and got a spanking by Belgarion when they clashed in last year’s Peninsula Handicap so remains a forlorn hope.

The G1 Paddock Stakes WFA over 1800m poses another intriguing challenge for horseplayers chasing the R10 million P6 Megapool, trying to forecast the outcome when horses from various centres and of different ages converge.

Unbeaten Silvano filly, Summer Pudding and the Exceed And Excel mare, Queen Supreme represent the Highveld elite, with What A Winter’s daughter, Clouds Unfold a proven G1 winner amongst the local contingent. Throw in new generation representatives like Princess Calla, Chat Ching and Dazzling Sun and it becomes even more interesting.

Summer Pudding is both adaptable and seriously talented, yet hard to assess accurately as she keeps on defeating lesser opposition under a range of varying circumstances, though not by commanding margins. Her admirable Summer Cup victory from a wide draw when lumping 59kg’s was arguably her career best. However, as virtually the entire field, barring very game runner-up Running Brave, flopped badly in the test of class/stamina at altitude it’s still hard to peg her true ability with certainty.

This race should answer whether Paul Peter’s filly is up to beating Queen Supreme or Clouds Unfold. The former’s tremendous run to Hawwaam in the Horse Chestnut in June 2020 makes her a particularly formidable threat and Mike de Kock’s defending champ will not relinquish her Paddock Stakes crown without a major scuffle.

Last year’s Majorca Stakes winner Clouds Unfold is high class over extended sprints and can carry her brilliance up to 1600m. There are concerns that she might be suspect going beyond a mile for the first time, especially as the pace should be enervating with tear-away front-runner, Silvano’s Pride stretching out the field. Still, she remains a significant threat if running to her peak ability.

From a compact field of seven, Golden Ducat and Nexus can fight out the Glorious Goodwood Premier Trophy G2. Golden Ducat beat re-opposing, Sachdev in the 2020 Cape Derby and has performed with distinction since then when pitched at the highest level, with ever-better runs in the Daily News, July and Champions Stakes where he beat the mighty, Rainbow Bridge.

That sort of form could prove superior to anything Nexus can muster, though he merits respect given his ability to quicken up well in what could turn into a jog/sprint scenario. Nexus is poised on a hat-trick after good efforts in the Cape Mile and Peninsula Handicap but meeting Golden Ducat at practically level weights is a daunting assignment. Brett Crawford’s entries, Super Silvano and Hudoo Magic rate next best as live place contenders.

Proceedings for the Festival get under way on Friday’s 8 race card, with the Cartier Sceptre Stakes (G2) which appears at the mercy of champion mare, Celtic Sea. She has compiled an outstanding record winning 11 races and placing second six times from 25 starts around the country up to 1600m.

She thrives physically in the Cape Summer, witness her eye-popping victory in a 1000m dash a month ago over the speedball, Run Fox Run. Celtic Sea is expected to justify short odds and see off Hello Winter Hello, Pretty Young Thing and Roll In The Hay.

To keep up to date with all the action you can go to:
Tellytrack: DSTV channel 249 or livestream
L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate website
Facebook: @LQPCT
Instagram: @lqpct
Twitter: @LQPCT
Live on SuperSport 4, Saturday 9 January 15h00 – 16h30

Words: Mark van Deventer
Images: Chase Liebenberg