Mike Moon: Ronnie’s Candy glories in a merit rating of 107 and if she can perform anywhere close to that mark she will doddle a 1400m Assessment Plate, Race 7, at the Vaal Straight course on Tuesday.
Trainer St John Gray’s youngster burst onto the big stage when she was a 36-1 maiden winner of the SA Fillies Nursery in May last year.
She had placed a couple of times before delivering that shock, but was not considered up to the standard set by other expensive runners from big stables.
This daughter of King Of Kings changed opinions quickly as she outgalloped her opposition like a good horse.
Slow starts and rough passages beset Ronnie’s Candy in two juvenile outings during the KwaZulu-Natal winter season and Gray made a wise decision to give the filly a four-month break.
The benefits of the holiday were obvious when she came out fresh to hammer a decent field in the 1400m Grade 2 Starling Stakes at Turffontein in early November – rekindling memories of that Nursery triumph.
Stepped up to 1600m in the Fillies Mile, she again impressed with a close-up third. Back to 1400m in the Three Troikas, she was right on the pace until the final 200m when a coughing episode put paid to her challenge.
The Assessment Plate initiative seems just the ticket for Ronnie’s Candy at this stage of her career and could prove a springboard for big things in the Highveld autumn season. Karl Zechner, who has been brilliant in the saddle lately, gets the job on the exciting filly.
However, her theoretical dominance of the race is threatened by several among her 12 rivals.
Trainer Mike de Kock fields Greener Pastures, who has an MR of 93 – pretty high for a three-year-old one-time winner from five starts.
Whether the handicappers have got their sums right should be revealed by this contest, but we must respect what they have seen in this daughter of Gimmethegreenlight.
At the top of the weights, two four-year-olds – Aurelia Cotta, from Sean Tarry’s yard, and Radiant Splendour, from Gary Alexander’s – have both won twice and done fairly well in good company.
They could be the ones to pounce if Ronnie’s Candy goes missing – especially with young riding tyros Lyle Hewitson and Dennis Schwarz wide awake to any opportunity.
Heaven’s Reward, trained by Lucky Houdalakis, came out smoking last year with two victories in her first two starts. But, after a rest, her comeback run in November didn’t resemble the earlier efforts and the jockey reported something amiss.
A 75-day break since then might have sorted her out and she could spring a Trifecta/Quartet surprise.
One other runner to bear in mind is Blossom, a daughter of Triple Tiara heroine Cherry On The Top. The three-year-old cruised to a 5.30-length win in her second start and reminded us of her mother’s exploits.
Old master Ormond Ferraris saddles Blossom for Mauritzfontein and Wilgerbosdrift and has the owners’ retained jockey Gavin Lerena to guide her. Again, this one is worth including in wider bets.