Jack Milner: In many cases, sprint dashes up the straight result in major upsets – one small mistake is hard to correct in the space of just 1200m. However, that might not be the case in Saturday’s Grade 2 Senor Santa Stakes over 1160m at Turffontein as Sean Tarry saddles a very smart three-year-old in Cirillo.
This is a stakes race and, as such, Cirillo might not be the best-handicapped runner. But his form is superb: he has run 12 times for four wins and six places and just seems to be getting better with every run.
He also has to give weight to 10 of the older runners, most of whom are older and more experienced, and that will not be easy. But the fact that Anton Marcus makes the trip to Turffontein to ride this son of Pomodoro also tells a story.
Marcus has ridden Cirillo twice, albeit against his own age group and on both occasions the colt won with contemptuous ease.
This will be tougher but he does have enough class to beat this field.
On paper, the best-weighted runner is one of Cirillo’s stable companions, Green Plains. This three-year-old filly comes in with just 53.5kg on her back and is at least 1.5kg better handicapped than the balance of the field.
The only concern is that she has achieved her merit rating racing against other fillies but has been well held when racing against the colts. In fact, the top three rated runners are all members of the fairer sex, which seems to indicate the handicappers might be out of kilter when doing their calculations. This race will answer that question.
As a result, the main danger to Cirillo could be Prince Of Kahal, who has been runner-up in two successive Grade 3 handicaps over 1000m at this course. He is clearly a better horse over 1200m so he will prefer this distance and will be running on strongly over the final stages. Muzi Yeni rode him in both of his last starts and he is back aboard on this occasion.
Another lightly raced runner who is improving is Mardi Gras. He has only run 12 times for five wins and fives places but he has come out on top in three of the last four. He has particularly improved since being fitted with blinkers and should finish in the places.
The other feature is the Listed Drum Star Handicap over 1800m and although he carries 61kg, Hero’s Honour looks the runner to beat. He won the Grade 1 SA Derby last season and has matured into a very decent four-year-old and is sure to be a factor in the upcoming Grade 1 Premier’s Champions Challenge.