Jack Milner: Horace’s three wins have seen his merit rating rise 19 points (9.5kg).
Two horses who have been heavily penalised by the handicappers will be out to confirm they are worthy of their merit ratings when they run at the Vaal on Thursday.
That is not say they did not deserve the increases based on their performances; it’s just they have to demonstrate their on-course performances can match the handicappers’ opinion of their ability
Horace lines up in Race 4, a MR 86 Handicap over 2400m on the Classic track. He is a son of Fort Wood, and the change to his career came as the result of two changes made by trainer Ashley Fortune. The first was the fitting of blinkers and the second was the decision to run him over longer distances.
His first run in blinkers was over 1800m on the Turffontein Inside track in which, after a slow start, he ran on to finish a 1.20-length second behind Gone With The Wind. The next move was to 2000m on the Vaal track and in this case, he just got up to beat Powered Beauty by 0.40 lengths.
Then they tried him over 2400m on this track and despite carrying 60kg, this four-year-old gelding coasted home to win by 6.50 lengths. Fortune ran him again over the distance, this time at Turffontein, and once again he impressed with an effortless 1.75-length win over Major Return.
The runner-up validated the quality of that victory with a win of his own, beating Fact by a neck over 2000m at the same track, giving the second horse 7kg.
His three wins have seen Horace’s merit rating rise 19 points (9.5kg) and he now has to show he can continue his excellent form against this level of opposition.
He will take on the likes of Condor Gulch, Wonderous Climber, Dromedaris and American Indian tomorrow but one still feels he has enough in reserve to beat this field over 2400m. Craig Bantam has related well to him and has been retained for the ride.
The second runner who has been heavily penalised in her last two runs is David Nieuwenhuizen-trained Pretty Border. This three-year-old filly has been running off a rating of 70 which went up to 72 after she beat Beautiful Shay by a length in January.
She stayed on 72 for finishing a 4.0-length third behind Bize in the Listed Oaks Trial but then she ran in two successive Grade 2 races – the SA Oaks and the Gerald Rosenberg Stakes – both won by Return Flight.
She received eight points for her sixth place (beaten 5.40 lengths) in the Oaks and a further 10 points for running a 2.90-length fourth in the Gerald Rosenberg.
The concern is that she was not winning in handicap company off a rating of 72 so has she made enough improvement to now win Race 5, a FM 81 Handicap over 2000m?
In this case one needs to err on the side of caution and although she needs to be included in Jackpots and Pick 6s, preference is now for Pretty Ballerina, Lady Val and Gottalottaluv.
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