Preview: Classy Equal Image set to outstay rivals in Gold Cup

Preview: Classy Equal Image set to outstay rivals in Gold Cup

<p>JACK MILNER<br />
IN spite of all his success worldwide, Mike de Kock had not won the Canon Gold Cup until last year. Ironically when Thundering Star crossed the line 2.50 lengths clear of Omaha Beach, it was in De Kock&rsquo;s own colours.</p>

<p>This year the newly crowned SA champion trainer has a strong hand yet again with Equal Image and Autumn Frost and it is the former who could give De Kock his second successive Gold Cup victory in the R1.2-million Grade 1 event over 3200m at Greyville.</p>
<p>After some mediocre performances, Equal Image has obtained a second wind since tried over marathon distances. Two runs back the Argentine-bred seven-year-old attempted a race over 2800m at Scottsville and came from the back of the field to win as he liked by 1.25 lengths.</p>
<p>His next start was in the Grade 2 Gold Vase over 3000m at Greyville on July Day and once again he coasted home345 by 1.50 lengths from Membrado and Omaha Beach.</p>
<p>The only concern with both those wins is that Equal Image drifted badly across the track and in the Gold Vase hampered a number of runners. The ease of his victory paid to any suggestion of an objection.</p>
<p>Detractors will also point to two other causes for apprehension. He has 58kg to shoulder and is drawn at No 20. While a bad draw is never beneficial, over 3200m it is of less significance and should not be overly detrimental.</p>
<p>As far as his weight is concerned, Equal Image has earned every kilo and looks handily handicapped against this field with a merit rating of 107. He is a 10-time winner, which includes a G1 victory when he captured the Champions Cup at Clairwood two years ago. A run earlier he had finished third to Eyeofthetiger in the Vodacom Durban July.</p>
<p>He carried 58kg in the Gold Vase and with many of the same runners only marginally better off, Equal Image should be capable of holding them ay bay over just 200m further.</p>
<p>“He&rsquo;s a top horse who stays but has also got speed,&rsquo;&rsquo; said De Kock. “You can put him over 1400m and he will still run on and finish just off them.&rsquo;&rsquo;</p>
<p>Kevin Shea has been having a hot winter season in KwaZulu-Natal and would no doubt be keen to add the Gold Cup to his Durban July victory.</p>
<p>Autumn Frost turned five today and is still improving. He was involved in some scrimmaging last time out when second to London Guest in The 2200, also on Durban July day. “I am a little concerned with the distance,&rsquo;&rsquo; said De Kock. “We ran him over 3200m in the Gold Bowl at Turffontein and he was with them all the way but stopped late. We&rsquo;ll just have to see how he handles this track.&rsquo;&rsquo;</p>
<p>It may be safer to go with a proven stayer for second and Joey Ramsden&rsquo;s Omaha Beach fits the description. He has not won over 3200m in three starts but has placed twice over the distance, including his second in last year&rsquo;s race.</p>
<p>He was hopelessly placed on that occasion and came from a long way back to grab second spot. This year he carries 3kg less and has the added benefit of Piere Strydom in the irons. The blond rider is a master of pace and unlikely to be caught so far out his ground this time.</p>
<p>He finished 1.75 lengths behind Equal Image in the Gold Vase and was one of the victims of the interference caused by the winner. This time Omaha Beach is 1.5kg better off and could get a lot closer.</p>
<p>Desert Links sullied a perfect win record at Greyville in the Durban July but did well enough when finishing fifth, just 1.60 lengths off the winners. He has yet to win beyond 2000m but Basil Marcus&rsquo; runner did run a great second to Major Bluff over 3200m a Kenilworth.</p>
<p>There is little doubt he will see out the distance but only gets 1kg from Equal Image and concedes 2kg to Omaha Beach and that will be a tough ask.</p>
<p>Mike Bass saddles four runners, Floatyourboat, Bill of Rights, River Jetez and Meteor Shower, and he appears more hopeful than confident. “I would just love to win a race with Floatyourboat but I don&rsquo;t know. I&rsquo;m not sure if he will see it out.</p>
<p>“The filly (River Jetez) is very well and I&rsquo;m confident she will stay, but she may have too much weight (56kg),&rsquo;&rsquo; said Bass. “Bill of Rights will definitely stay and despite his bad draw (No 18), he probably has the best chance of the four.&rsquo;&rsquo;</p>
<p>He will not be short of help from the saddle as Weichong Marwing gets the ride.</p>
<p>There is mixed form as far as Membrado is concerned. On his second to Equal Image in the Gold Vase, he must come into the reckoning but on his penultimate run Sean Tarry&rsquo;s runner looks held by Bill of Rights, Winona and Ser de Carrera.</p>
<p>The G2 Gold Bracelet for fillies and mares over 2000m is complicated by the fact that the better-weighted runners have yet to prove they stay the distance. Mike Miller&rsquo;s Outcome loves the course and is a top-class “miler&rsquo;&rsquo; but has not won over this distance. She did capture a slow-run, six-horse 1900m event when beating Calumet by two lengths but it could be a different story in this company.</p>
<p>The same is true of Zooming Zellie and Gilded Minaret, while Angel Flight disappointed last time out. Bass&rsquo;s Cymbeline has not earned her keep in Durban this season, but this race could be her best chance to change that and with Karl Neisius up, the 12-1 on offer looks most attractive.</p>
<p>The Listed Umngeni Handicap over 1000m is equally tricky but based on his four-length fourth to JJ the Jet Plane in the Golden Horseshoe at Scottsville, Pegasus Emblem could be the right one. Four of his six wins have come over the minimum trip and he should get the better of Intellectual, Blue Tiger and Battlestar Express, who is going for his fourth successive victory.</p>

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