Mike Moon: This summer the three-year-olds have stamped themselves as an outstanding generation of horses, so it is tempting to side with one of them to beat a bunch of older campaigners in the topliner at Durbanville on Tuesday.
It’s not just the appropriate name What A Summer that catches the attention in Race 4, a MR 96 Divided Handicap over 1400m. This youngster is clearly on the up and up, having shown steady improvement over the course of his eight runs to date, culminating in an eye-catching victory in his penultimate outing – over this course and distance.
That win came when trainer Candice Bass-Robinson fitted blinkers for the first time to the son of What A Winter and he sauntered home by 3.50 lengths. Next time out, again with the headgear, he was beaten by a whisker in a 1400m race at Kenilworth, a MR 80 Handicap.
Tomorrow’s contest is quite a big step up in class and What A Summer is technically out at the weights on that last run. But the weight he does carry, 52kg, is not a heavy burden in the hurly burly of battle. Add to that the considerable advantages of being drawn in gate No 2 and having crack rider Grant van Niekerk aboard and the case for What A Summer becomes quite interesting.
But he surely won’t have it all his own way. Ranged against him are seven older runners who’ve been around the block and know how to win races.
Catkin, for example, is an eight-time winner and has prevailed twice over this course and distance. Respect is demanded, but 64kg might be a tad too hefty for the six-year-old.
Similarly, 61kg in the saddle will slow down Lord Balmoral, a four-year-old Australian import with three wins to his credit. However, Vaughan Marshall’s charge is returning to racing after being gelded and that little tweak can sometimes transform a horse and he should be considered for exotic permutations.
Icon King is a free-striding front-runner who one day soon will hold on long enough to claim his fourth career victory. Trainer Mike Stewart has booked 4kg-claiming apprentice Sandile Mbhele for this tilt and 49,5kg might be feathery enough to see him fly in.