Muzi Yeni’s weekly column, as published in Racing Express on Saturday.
The Vodacom Durban July is the race every jockey wants to win and it is one race that I have run a place in but have yet to win.
My best result came in 2009 when Thundering Jet, from the Mike Bass yard, finished fourth behind Big City Life.
So, I was delighted when Mathew de Kock offered me the ride on Barahin for this year’s race.
The colt was a top-class two-year-old and has won twice at Greyville, which is always a positive. He will come in with a light weight, which is always a plus over 2200m.
On Sunday he won the Jubilee Handicap over 1800m at Turffontein and it was an impressive performance from a three-year-old. The race will have brought him on and Mike de Kock feels Barahin is in a better space right now than he was during his prep runs.
Today we race at Turffontein on the Inside track and I’d like to think I have a decent book of rides and it could certainly pay to follow me.
Race 1 is a Maiden Juvenile Plate over 1600m. Mike de Kock-trained Vaseem had a decent sprint debut in open company behind Urban Rock and will love the rise to 1600m from gate No 2 with Anton Marcus up.
My ride, Steak And Ale, expectedly improved when put over this trip at the Vaal last month. He was narrowly defeated by another De Kock first timer, Alibi Guy, though the 0.15-length margin of defeat may flatter my ride slightly. That said, Steak And Ale has further scope for improvement and must be included in all bets.
Race 2 is a competitive Maiden Juvenile Plate for fillies over 1600m and this formline could certainly be worth following.
My ride, Irish Dame, had an eye-catching debut over 1600m in a decent field on the Standside track last month and although the obvious reservation is her wide draw on this tight track, I do feel she has scope for improvement.
Well-tried Annatjie finished only 0.75 lengths in front of my ride last month. She has the benefit of pole position and a 4kg apprentice allowance. She looks a major threat for an in-form yard. Others to include are Escape To Victory who drops in class, Flagship Fund (also drawn wide), Diorama (room for natural improvement) and Bat Orchid.
Race 3 is an Assessment Plate over 1450m and the merit ratings tell the full story in this event which heavily favours Joey Ramsden inmate Arabian Air. He should build on his cracking local debut over this course and distance. He was slightly unfortunate when pipped that day after having to shift his ground. His connections lodged an objection which was overruled. S’manga Khumalo has been summoned to do the business.
My ride, Crown Guardian, smashed subsequent winner Oravar in his local debut for his new yard and although he should enjoy the extra distance, the weights are heavily stacked against him. The Sean Tarry pair of Flash Burn and Tierra Del Fuego should complete the Quartet.
For the Place Accumulator go with Arabian Air and Crown Guardian.
Race 4 is a Maiden Plate over 1200m and my ride, Campanilla, is much better than his last run. The addition of blinkers, coupled with the drop-in distance, and this being his peak outing, makes him a major contender.
Of course, the obvious form horse is Orchid Street, who went down narrowly in both his comeback starts over this track and trip following a lengthy layoff. Keep a close eye on the De Kock first timers Afraad and Shady Affair. The riding engagements favour the former who will be partnered by Anton.
Go with Orchid Street and Campanilla for the PA and for the Pick 6 include Afraad.
Race 5 is a Maiden Plate for fillies and mares over 1200m and Lagertha looks the best bet on the card and a banker in all bets. The daughter of Frankel should show smart improvement after her decent debut over this course and distance from a wide draw. Expect improvement from fellow juvenile Oceans Charm, who is also lightly raced and may just prefer the turn
Race 6 is a MR 84 Handicap over 1450m where Lone Survivor teams up with S’manga. It came as no surprise to see his form improve under this top rider in his comeback run three weeks ago. I rode the second horse, Silver Master, and he franked that form with a win earlier in the week. The rise in class isn’t an issue and the five-year old gelding has a strong chance from pole position.
I rode the top weight Rocky Night last time when he just found the trip too far and runner-up, Apache Too, boosted that form with victory last Sunday. Others to consider are my ride, Greenwood Drive, Gimme Hope Johanna, Count Tassilo and a nice roughie like Ryder, who admittedly has a mountain to climb on merit ratings.
Banker Lone Survivor in the PA and add Rocky Night, Greenwood Drive, Gimme Hope Johanna and Tarsus into the Pick 6.
Race 7 is a tricky MR 74 Handicap over 1600m that has just one natural frontrunner, which is my ride, Marshall Foch. Although he is going up in class after his maiden win, it was encouraging how runner-up Lemon Drop Shot won his next start and I could certainly be allowed a soft lead.
Furthermore, I’ve watched likely favourite Silver Spectrum closely and feel he will prefer a solid gallop and a long run-in. That said, he clearly appears above average and is ahead of the handicapper. However, the horse to beat could be Kings Archer who should be a PA banker in this field. For the Pick 6 add in, Silver Spectrum, Kremlin Judgement and Marshall Foch.
Race 8 is a MR 84 Handicap over 1600m and this race is blessed with much pace which will favour my ride and track specialist Tammany Hall. She had a creditable last run despite racing wide behind subsequent winner Pool Party.
Pale Lilac was just in front of her and is 1kg better off. She was returning from a rest so will be fitter and is Raymond Danielson’s only ride on the card. Rouge Allure is not out of it if she can repeat her penultimate run in the Syringa Handicap.
I make Tammany Hall another PA banker but for the Pick 6 add in Anneka, Rouge Allure and Pale Lilac
Race 9 is a MR 68 Handicap over and 1600m. Ruby Dancer has had two useful comeback runs following an 18-week rest and is her 1.5kg claiming apprentice’s solitary ride on the day. Piccadilly Square seems to reserve her best efforts for Ryan Munger and she can bounce right back to best on her favourite track from a good draw. I ride Destinys Game who ran well last time when the blinkers were removed.
For the PA go with Sans Regrets and Destinys Game and for Pick 6 add in Hareer, Ruby Dancer, and Piccadilly Square. Other possibilities are Countess Trenton and rank outsider Dress For Success who is back facing her own sex.