Danie Toerien: Round three of what could be described as the greatest equine duel of the year will be played out on Saturday when Clouds Unfold and Celtic Sea are set to take centre stage – for the third time in 2020.
They will meet in Race 8, the Grade 1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes over 1600m.
Round one was fought over 1200m at Kenilworth in January with Sean Tarry’s Celtic Sea outsprinting Candice Bass-Robinson’s charge by 2.5 lengths in the Grade 2 Cartier Sceptre Stakes.
Three weeks later that result was reversed when Clouds Unfold won the Grade 1 Bidvest Majorca Stakes over 1600m by 0.3 lengths, also at Kenilworth.
Round three will see Celtic Sea defend her title as the Garden Province Stakes champion. In last year’s race she beat the legendary Oh Susanna as well as Snowdance and she is the bookmakers’ favourite to retain the title.
Over 1600m Clouds Unfold does have a slightly better record than her arch-rival, with two victories from four runs. Celtic Sea has one victory from six runs over this distance, but that victory was in last year’s race.
Celtic Sea has the slight advantage of the number 7 draw, with Clouds Unfold jumping from gate 13.
Both horses also have the services of their regular recent jockeys in Gavin Lerena and Aldo Domeyer, so from that perspective there is also very little to choose between them.
Racegoers can expect another ding-dong battle between the country’s two highest rated fillies and it would take a very brave punter to exclude one of them from their exotic bets.
The dark horse in the race could be Ronnie’s Candy, trained by St John Gray.
She scored an impressive victory recently in the Grade 1 HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes over 1600m at Turffontein, in the process defeating a number of runners she faces on Saturday.
Gray also gave her a look at the Greyville track, entering her in the KwaZulu-Natal Breeders Mile (Non-Black Type) six days ago. She ran fourth, two lengths behind Running Brave, but that run also gave her and jockey Grant van Niekerk time to get to know each other as he will be holding her reins on Saturday.
That could prove to be a very clever move by Gray.