FRONT AND CENTRE
Trainer Brett Crawford is aiming to bridge a 13-year gap with Front And Centre in Saturday’s World Sports Betting Fillies Guineas.
Anton Marcus’s mount hasn’t yet developed the aura of Bad Girl Runs – she went on to win the Paddock Stakes – but the Kieswetter filly has won all three starts with a devastating turn of foot and is the favourite.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing because she was forced to miss the main trial, the Western Cape Fillies Championship, with muscle enzyme problems but her trainer is convinced that she has put those firmly behind her and that she is back on song.
“She has been 100% since her win on November 21 and she worked well last week,” says Crawford. “All is in order and I am very happy with her.”
Front And Centre is 2-1 favourite with the sponsors despite having raced at a lower level than the likes of Clouds Unfold (3-1) and 7-1 shots Temple Grafin and Ghaalla. But Crawford doesn’t see this as a problem, saying: “She has always shown us that she has something special and everybody that has been on her has said she has given them a good feel. Furthermore, she has gone about her business in an ultra-professional manner.”
So the jump in class shouldn’t be a problem? “I don’t know that it is a jump. She is rated 101 and there are only three rated higher. She is a massive runner.”
Clouds Unfold created a big impression when coming from some way back to win the WC Fillies Championship with authority. The decision to run Saturday’s race a fortnight later than usual means that there is a seven-week gap between the trial and the race – too long in the eyes of some trainers who have felt it necessary to get another run into their charges.
Not so Candice Bass-Robinson with the second favourite. “I galloped her on the course last week and I believe that put her pretty much spot on. She will be fine over the extra furlong – she switches off easily in a race and she is out of a Montjeu mare.”
This will be her second run back and Bass-Robinson, like many punters, is a firm believer that it is the third run that usually sees a horse at its peak. But she has got around this by staging her own race in private.
“They cancelled the one she was due to run in so I put six of mine up against each other at Durbanville. As a result, this will effectively be her third run back.”
She also runs 16-1 shot Santa Clara who was third in the WC Fillies and second in a subsequent progress plate. “She is tough and game, and she always runs well. I don’t know that she can beat Clouds Unfold but she could finish in the money if things go right.”
Temple Grafin (7-1) has a length and a quarter to find with Clouds Unfold on WC Fillies form and events have shown that it was no disgrace to be beaten by Nous Voila in a subsequent sprint.
“We are very chuffed with her and she is bred for this mile,” says trainer Glen Kotzen, successful with Princess Victoria seven years ago. “She has pulled a bad draw so it is going to be tough but the longer straight gives her a chance. It’s her third run after a break and it’s what we have been aiming at.
“Coral Bay (25-1) is also drawn badly at nine. I was disappointed with her last time but we have been waiting for the longer run-in and hopefully we will see her doing her best work because she is a talented filly.”
In the Cape Guineas, Joey Ramsden is bidding for his third win in eight years and all-the-way Cape Classic winner Twist Of Fate is as big as 13-1, largely because he was beaten over two lengths into third in the Concorde Cup.
“He didn’t have a great trach wash the week before but the low draw made me run. Maybe it shouldn’t have,” reflects his trainer.
“I am hoping the longer straight will suit him. There looks to be a lot of speed in the race with three or four strong pace horses whereas usually there are none. I don’t know whether or not that will help and with his wide draw it’s going to depend on how he gets in. I used to think that he was better switched off and coming with a late rattle but he is not.” – Michael Clower, Gold Circle