Jack Milner: Whether it be a princess, an empress, or an equine queen, royalty will be arriving at Turffontein Racecourse on Saturday.
HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco has shown an interest in South African horseracing for much of her life and this will be the seventh year she will have a Graded race run in her honour. This year, the Grade 1 Empress Club Stakes bears her name and comprises one of the best fields this race has produced.
The race is named after a filly who was nicknamed “The Galloping Goldmine” and leading this year’s field is another filly who is the current queen of South African racing. Oh Susanna has only raced 12 times but has already amassed four Grade 1 wins and, with them, R5 million in stake money. She was named Equus Horse Of The Year last season and currently has a merit rating of 119.
As this race is run on weight-for-age terms, this Justin Snaith-trained daughter of Street Cry looks almost impossible to oppose. She is between 4.5kg and 14kg better handicapped than any other runner and, to add to that, she has landed No 1 draw.
However, assistant trainer Jonathan Snaith has warned punters to be cautious before pouring money on to her, citing three reasons. The first is that she has not run since contesting the Sun Met in January, the second is that this will be her first race at altitude and, finally, 1600m is probably a touch short for her. In fact, she has finished second in her two starts over the distance.
However, Snaith concedes their charge might not need to be at her best to win a race in which she is so well weighted.
On the issue of the distance, Turffontein is a tough mile and the long straight should suit her style of running. This is a filly who has taken on and beaten the best and, with Richard Fourie in the irons, she has to be the No 1 choice.
The biggest challenge is likely to come from Cascapedia. This Mike de Kock-trained daughter of High Chaparral was thumped four lengths by Oh Susanna when they met in the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes in Cape Town so it will not be easy to turn that defeat around, but the issues highlighted by Snaith could work in her favour.
Cascapedia has a record of five wins and three places in 10 starts at Turffontein and this time she has home-ground advantage. Gavin Lerena takes the ride and they are drawn No 2.
There are a couple of three-year-olds who will be meeting Oh Susanna for the first time and the best of these could be Sean Tarry-trained Celtic Sea, who seems to be in excellent form. She gets a 2.5kg allowance and will have the services of champion jockey Lyle Hewitson.
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