Mike Moon: It was no surprise to see unbeaten Rainbow Bridge priced up as favourite for the Grade 3 Highlands Stud Winter Classic to be run at Kenilworth on Saturday. But the 16-10 opening call appeared generous – and punters took advantage, forcing bookmakers to cut the three-year-old gelding to 11-10 overnight.
The style in which the gelding won last month’s Winter Guineas backed up trainer Eric Sands’ description of him as “a very special horse”. He meets several of the same opponents in the Classic – Leg 2 of the Western Cape’s winter triple series.
The acceleration shown in both his races to date suggest a step up to 1800m, from the 1600m of the Guineas, will be no problem. And the annual switch from the Summer to the Winter course should not bother a runner of his class.
Another potential concern is the No 9 draw.
Sands commented this week: “Rainbow Bridge is very well. He’s very fit and improving all the time. Going to the old course is a consideration, as jockey Richard Fourie will have to sit a little handier.”
Most punters have no doubts about the precocious son of Ideal World.
The only other runner in the 10-horse field to attract money has been the Justin Snaith-trained Love Happens, who was third in the Winter Guineas, 1.55 lengths adrift of the easing-up Rainbow Bridge. This son of Silvano should handle the extra 200m and has the desirable No 4 stall.
The runners drifting on the betting boards include Spring Man, who has eased from 9-1 to 11-1, and Pacific Chestnut, who has gone to 20-1 after a 15-1 opening.
Rocket Countdown, a 1.25-length second in the Guineas and “a very smart horse” according to trainer Candice Bass-Robinson, is on offer at 33-10. “He will run well again but has Rainbow Bridge to beat.”
On her other runners, Bass-Robinson said: “Ben-Hur (35-1) was disappointing last time, but they went slow, and he needs a good gallop. He can do a lot better. Pacific Chestnut (15-1) is consistent, but his main mission will be the Winter Derby over 2400m (Leg 3 of the Winter Series).”
Commenting on his runner Ancestry, fourth favourite at 7-1, Joey Ramsden said: “He had a great run back in the Winter Guineas, before he ran out of puff late on. He is very sound at the moment, but I was very impressed with Eric Sands’ horse (Rainbow Bridge) which will be hard to beat.”
BETTING FOR KENILWORTH – 26 May
Winter Classic (Grade 3):
11-10 Rainbow Bridge; 33-10 Rocket Countdown; 11-2 Doublemint; 7-1 Ancestry; 8-1 Love Happens; 11.1 Spring Man; 20-1 Pacific Chestnut; 22-1 Morning Catch; 30-1 Man About Town; 35-1 Ben-Hur.