Nicci Garner: Marinaresco, third on the log and a 13-2 shot with Betting World for the Vodacom Durban July next month, comes well at this time of the year and could have the R1-million Rising Sun Gold Challenge (Grade 1) at Greyville on Saturday at his mercy.
This Candice Bass-Robinson-trained four-year-old was kept at home in Cape Town in the early part of the Durban winter season last year, but so impressed his connections with his wins in the Winter Guineas and Winter Classic that they bypassed the Winter Derby to run him in the Durban July.
The gamble so nearly paid off. Marinaresco showed an immediate liking for the tight Greyville circuit and was a trifle unlucky not to win the Durban July. Drawn No 17 out of 18 he got a bit too far back and failed by only a neck to catch The Conglomerate. He made no mistakes next time out, admittedly in a much weaker field, and won the 1800m Champions Cup four weeks later.
He is beautifully drawn in No 2 stall and is a capable performer over this shorter distance. After all, his form over 1600m reads one win, two second and a fourth from as many runs.
He has also returned to action at the top of his game, as evidenced by his win in the 1400m Drill Hall Stakes last month, when he beat Victorious Jay (renews rivalry) by a short head. Six more of these horses were behind him that day and all meet him on 1kg or 2kg worse terms.
While Marinaresco is a worthy favourite, he is taking on a competitive field and few horses in the line-up can be deemed to have no chance.
Second vote goes to French Navy, who will be equipped with blinkers for the first time. Trainer Sean Tarry’s stable jockey has opted for Trip To Heaven, the horse who won this race last year only to have first prize snatched away in the stipendiary stewards’ boardroom.
French Navy has, admittedly, been a trifle disappointing – it’s around 17 months since he last won a race – but the additional equipment could well make him competitive at this level again. He is currently eighth on the Durban July log.
While arguably better suited to further, he did finish second to his champion stable companion Legal Eagle in the 1600m Horse Chestnut Stakes in April and jockey Chase Maujean will have options from a midfield draw.
Janoobi, who is not entered for the Durban July because that 2200m is too far, is a dual Guineas winner and will have many fans, despite a wide draw. Jockey Piere Strydom is a master jockey and if anyone can help Janoobi overcome the draw, he is the man.
Mike de Kock’s charge beat subsequent SA Derby and Durban July second favourite winner Al Sahem in the Gauteng Guineas in April and then downed Secret Captain in the Guineas at Greyville last month.
Brett Crawford’s string is in hot form, so Captain America (sixth on the July log) cannot be ignored, despite a wide draw, while top-class filly Bela-Bela (seventh on the log) takes on males again but is another horse who enjoys Greyville and will not be far from 100% fit in her bid to get a July invitation.
Trip To Heaven is best known as a sprinter and is another who is not being prepared for the Durban July. Most would consider it just reward were he to win again but keep the race this time.
Johan Janse van Vuuren-trained New Predator is ideally distance suited and is drawn wide but, although held by Marinaresco, jockey Gavin Lerena has flown in from the UK to ride him and he can do better.