Three-year-old Trials are upset material

March 12, 2021

It feels as though we are just coming up for a quick breather when taking a look at this weekend’s race cards, following a flurry of big features and Grade One racing.

Still, there is some important stuff to tackle, with Turffontein staging the Derby and Oaks Trials (both listed races) over 2000m on Saturday. This is a pointer to both those three-year-old staying races looming.

For both the Derby and Oaks Trials the winner is staring at us from off the race card pages. But, I urge caution. The colts and geldings’ race has attracted 11 runners and the fillies equivalent nine runners, but the highest merit rating of any horse across both races is only 88. There are three-year-olds that are lightly raced and could show plenty of improvement, while others might be ambitious entries.

I don’t have a strong feel for either race, so I’ve been using the process of elimination to whittle the contenders down. I’m not a big fan of young horses (and these three-year-olds fit into that category) wearing blinkers so early in their careers. And while it has become a lot more popular – some trainers routinely fit it – I also think twice when looking at a young horse fitted with a tongue tie. It might suggest there’s a breathing problem, which hinders a horse more the longer the distance.

So, I might be well off the mark here, but that’s racing. Everyone’s an expert after the horses cross the finish line.

But, in narrowing the fields down, simply based on the above, I’m left with six horses in the Derby Trial: Pamushana’s Pride, Invincible Warrior, Bold Resolve, Earl, Ushuaia and Midnight Caller. Of those Sean Tarry has three (four in the field in total) and you’d expect that jockey Lyle Hewitson had the choice of rides. Not that jockeys always get it right, but he’s on Invincible Warrior. Pamushana’s Pride looks to have a lot of heart, so needs to be considered too.

Similarly, the Oaks field is narrowed down to six horses: Ideal Jet, Traveling Wilbury, Astral Plane, Keeping The Peace, Queen Bomi and Ayraam. The two daughters of Dynasty, Travelling Wilbury and Ayraam will keep improving and will relish this distance.

There’s a Grade 2 on the card, the Senor Santa Stakes over 1160m and this looks really competitive. Ten of the 14 runners have merit ratings of 114 or higher and the lowest is a 102. There’s proper speed in this race. Keep an eye out on Mount Pleasant who has been really disappointing in his last two starts over a mile. It might well be that he bounces back to his best with a big run over a sprint. There also should be a piece of paper separating True To Life and Chimichuri Run, although the speed in the race seems to be on the outside which would favour True To Life.

Last week we were spot on with saying Malmoos would be hard to oppose in the SA Classic at Turffontein. We even suggested that 13-10, available at the time, was a generous price. Imagine the surprise when he drifted out to start at 51-20 as Catch Twentytwo was backed to beat him. Malmoos still came home like an odds-on shot though, rewarding those who had continued to back him through the betting drift.

In the Western Cape you know that winter is coming when racing switches from Kenilworth to Durbanville. The “country course” is actually a delightfully intimate place to go racing and improvements to the track in recent times has made the racing fairer than it used to be. Not long ago, if your horse wasn’t a front runner and it wasn’t drawn in the first five gates from the fence you could virtually draw a line through its chances.

Now, with the track being flattened out and the turn being made wider, an inside draw is still an advantage, but others have winning chances as well. Now too a horse is able to come off the pace, whereas previously it was a front-runner’s playground.

Still, with racing reverting to Durbanville this weekend, the inside draws will probably still be the more favourable, while those who like to race handy should be given preference when you’re studying the race card.

Bass Racing had a good say at the office last week with three winners and they are sponsored by GG Gaming. They don’t appear to have any standout winners on the card, but Bernie (race 2), Swazi Queen (race 3), On Your Marks (race 4), Master Of Power (race 6) and Golden Dah (race 8) might be their best runners on the card for the stable.

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