The last time Jackson and Variety Club met, it was no contest as the former ran out a convincing winner. That, however, was over the 2000m of the Cape Derby and Variety Club will be well placed to avenge that defeat when the two hotshot 3-year-olds clash in the K R A Guineas to be run over 1600m at Greyville on Saturday.
While both these colts have shown serious ability, they are vastly different in their make-up. Jackson, right from the start of his career, has been crying out for each step up in trip while Variety Club is a sprinter-miler in the classic mould. His form over this sort of trip is hard to argue with: victories in the Matchem Stakes, Selangor Cup and, most eye-catchingly, the Cape Guineas, before going down narrowly in the Queens Plate to another sophomore with a fine turn of foot in Gimmethegreenlight. There was nothing wrong with that defeat, as Variety Club had to be used early on to beat a bad draw and he was only collared in the last stride. Then came the defeat to Jackson but even that run was full of merit – he was beaten by the better horse over the trip and running on empty towards the end, but still finished well clear of the rest of the field.
Variety Club’s last start didn’t tell us much. He won the Winter Guineas without any fuss, despite not being fully tuned up and it was a satisfactory warm-up for the stiffer task he will face on Saturday. If there is a concern, it’s that he’s had a tough campaign and the Queens Plate and Derby, in particularly, seemed to take a fair bit out of him. If he is at his best, though, he will be hard to beat over this course and distance, as the tight Greyville circuit with its short straight will suit his style of running down to the ground.
Jackson still has some work to do before he can be spoken of in the same breath as his sire Dynasty but he’s certainly started about his business the right way. Unbeaten in four starts since a debut fifth, he’s looked more and more a proper racehorse with each start. His Politician Stakes win was visually impressive as he charged down the outside of the track from some way back to leave his rivals for dead and it convinced most observers that he unbeatable in the Derby. So it proved, as he justified his short odds with a win of real authority, one that had many convinced that they had seen this year’s Vodacom Durban July winner in action.
Dynasty won this race before taking the Daily News 2000 (he scared off the opposition in both races) and then, breathtakingly, the July itself from a seemingly impossible position. From what we’ve seen, Jackson may well prove equal to completing the next two legs of the same treble, but one gets the impression that this sharp mile will not play to his strengths and we will only really see him come into his own when he goes 400m further on Daily News day.
Some may choose to view this as a two-horse race and perhaps they’ll be proved right but trainer Dean Kannemeyer and jockey Karl Neisius certainly won’t fall into that category as they team up for Divine Jet’s bid for redemption. Beautifully bred and highly thought of from day one, Divine Jet went off favourite for the Cape Guineas despite taking a huge step up in class, not having beaten anything of note when putting together a perfect record from his first three starts. He never got into the race and finished seventh. He got back on the winning trail when dropping back to 1200m on J & B Met day, beating a competitive field of battle-hardened older horses with consummate ease. Almost inevitably, that run had him branded as a sprinter and the doubters will argue that he simply cannot reverse the Cape Guineas form with Variety Club as he was convincingly beaten on the day and is not a miler in any event.
It’s not quite that simple, though. Divine Jet has had some four months and a bit to mature since the Cape Guineas and will be much better equipped to see out the trip this time out. Moreover, the Greyville mile is much more forgiving than Kenilworth when it comes to stamina and a horse of his natural speed will be very much at home here, especially from a good draw. He’s already shown that he possesses a deadly finishing kick and he will have been learning with each visit to the track. He still has to prove he’s up to the task but one can expect him to get a lot closer to Variety Club this time around. Kannemeyer has few peers when it comes to preparing classic contenders and it won't be a huge surprise to see Divine Jet contesting the finish.
Golden Chateau has to enter the calculations on his Gauteng Guineas win. His detractors will argue that he had the run of the race that day from a perfect draw and that many of his victims – notably third-placed Slumdogmillionaire – had genuine hard-luck stories. Sure enough, he found the form reversed in no uncertain terms when he clashed with Slumdogmillionaire and also the likes of Pomodoro and Brooks-Club in the SA Classic but in his defence, he was awkwardly drawn and never really got into the race. He now enjoys a good draw again and should be much better poised turning for home this time around. He did beat some decent horses in the Gauteng Guineas and his best efforts have come over this trip so he cannot be written off.
Graham Beck Stakes winner Astro News was most disappointing when fifth in the Winter Guineas. He ran two very decent races against older opposition when finishing close up in both the Peninsula Handicap and J & B Met and, on that form, should have been a clear-cut second in the Winter Guineas instead of missing the placings. He has shown enough to give him an outside quartet chance if he regains his best form.
Unannounced was beaten for the first time in seven starts when going down to Depardieu in the recent Byerley Turk over 1400m, his first attempt beyond a sprint distance. There was honour in defeat as he made most of the running and was only gunned down late by a very smart rival. He now tries a mile for the first time and while he may yet prove that he stays, this is a very tough first assignment over the trip, given the quality of his opposition here, and the more so as he is badly drawn. He's a very useful sort but this may just prove beyond him.
Looking at the remaining runners, they are not slouches by any means and between them, they should all go on to win their fair share of races. What they have in common, though, is a lack of big race form to suggest they can take on the the more proven runners here and it would require a sizeable chunk of improvement for any of them to trouble the big guns in the line-up..