Jack Milner: Trainer Glen Kotzen will be hoping for a change of fortune when Pack Leader lines up for the Grade 2 World Sports Betting 1900 at Greyville on Saturday.
He has been priced up as joint 4-1 favourite with Sean Tarry-trained Matador for the R500,000 race and but despite not being the best handicapped runner – that goes to Paul Peter-trained filly Fort Ember – Kotzen believes his charge is well enough to win.
“Prior to his last start Pack Leader had not run since Met Day on 27 January,” said Kotzen on Tuesday. “We weren’t expecting him to be close to ready. If anything, he was around 60% fit. He had only had one gallop so we decided we would give him a prep run in The Sledgehammer.
“We were shocked that he got within a short head of the winner, Head Honcho. There has been enough time since his first run so I’m not concerned about this being his second run after a layoff. He has come on a helluva lot since then. He’s definitely working like a winner.”
This three-year-old son of Philanthropist is only a two-time winner from 10 starts but Kotzen believes with a bit of luck on his side Pack Leader would have picked up “a big one” by now.
“He’s not been lucky with draws. He drew No 12 of 16 in Lanzerac Ready To Run Cup and still managed to finish third, and then he landed No 13 draw in the Guineas.
“He was way back turning for home and then when he started to unwind his run White River ran into him. That knocked him off his stride but Richard (Fourie) managed to get him back into the race and as he took off again, White River ran into him again.
“He was taken out twice by the same horse but still managed to finish fifth behind Tap O’ Noth, beaten just 2.55 lengths.
“In the Derby he came wide into the straight and then ended up on the inside rail to finish third.”
After the 1900, Pack Leader will be heading straight into the Vodacom Durban July, should he earn his place in the R4.5-million race at Greyville on Saturday 7 July.
Kotzen also has Gold Standard entered in the Durban July. He is currently in 12th spot on the Durban July log and according to Kotzen, his charge has blossomed since arriving in KwaZulu-Natal. “In the Cape we always had these niggling problems with him but now he is striding out and looking magnificent. He’s had one gallop already and will have a second one on Tuesday.
“From there he will go straight into the Gold Challenge. Like a lot of sons of Trippi he does not take much work. He likes to come out fresh.”
Gold Standard is in the process of being syndicated by Drakenstein Stud and he will retire at the end of the season.
As far as Investec Derby winner Eyes Wide Open is concerned, Kotzen decided to give him a long break after his win in that Grade 2 race on Met Day. “He arrived in KZN last week. He looks like he’s had a holiday. If anything, the Champions Cup will be his only outing during the winter.
“He is a top-class horse and there’s no rush with him. We will play it by ear.”
Kotzen says he has some excellent youngsters who have not yet raced. One of them is Purest Bliss who won Race 1 at Scottsville on Wednesday and Kotzen is expects big things from the daughter of Pathfork.
Speaking prior to the race Kotzen Said: “This filly impresses me. She’s a big, strong, strapping filly and if she wins at Scottsville on Wednesday (today) she will go straight into the Grade 1 Allan Robertson next week.”
He has also entered Princess Peach into the South African Fillies Sprint on the same day and feels she has the ability to do well. “She has her quirks, however, and everything needs to go her way.
“She has had a barrier trial and a run so she should be at her peak for the Grade 1 race.”