What A Winter has proven to be almost invincible over 1200m but the one blot on his copybook over this trip is the 2011 Golden Horse Casino Sprint where he finished a close but below-par sixth. There will therefore be a sense of unfinished business when he lines up for the 2012 edition of the same race at Scottsville on Saturday.
Last year's failure formed part of a disastrous winter campaign as he was ruled out for the remainder of the season through injury and had to undergo surgery. He hasn't shown any ill effects since returning to the track, though, posting two fluent wins including the Diadem Stakes and then not disgracing himself in defeat in the Cape Flying Championship and Computaform Sprint, the 1000m trip on both occasions proving just too sharp for him. He won't have the easiest task under 60kg he has proven to have few peers over this trip and while he is by no means a good thing under his welter burden, it's not unreasonable to look to his sheer class to carry him through here.
Link Man is bound to be the big danger if he can recapture his best form. He returns to the scene of his biggest triumph, having annexed the Gr 1 Medallion at this meeting two years ago, and receives a sizeable 3kg from What A Winter. That could well prove decisive here but Link Man does have a few questions to answer following a below-par last effort in the Queens Plate where he was found to have bled. That has to be concern, especially as he has not run since, but he is one of the top sprinter-milers in the country when at his best. It's anybody's guess how he will go on Saturday but he has winning claims if he brings his A-game to the track.
Castlethorpe didn't look an obvious candidate for a Gr 1 sprint last season when winning the Winter Guineas and running a very respectable fourth in the Gold Challenge but he seems to have reveled in dropping back in trip and comes into the race seeking a hat-trick over this distance. His last two wins came against much weaker opposition than this but one shouldn't be fooled by that - he has shown a touch of class form early in his career and his Gold Challenge effort last season suggests that he is well capable of handling the step up to this level.
3-year-olds have a good record in this race with the likes of Kildonan, J J The Jet Plane and Shea Shea all having triumphed in recent years under fairly stiff weights (the amazing J J carried an impossible 60kg at that age and still trounced his opposition). There are four contenders of that age group in this year's line-up and none of them is nearly as severely treated at the weights.
Depardieu may prove to be the best of the sophomores, although only just. He was slightly disappointing when fifth in the Drill Hall Stakes but wasn't beaten far and, in his defence, battled to find room at a crucial stage in the straight. He was most impressive when easing home against his own age group in the Byerley Turk over 1400m prior to that but is as effective over this shorter trip. He's handily treated under 54kg and, having already had experience of this track, could make a bold bid. He's certainly not too far off the best of his generation having fared creditably against the likes of Variety Club and Gimmethegreenlight in the past.
Also carrying the same weight are the Charles Laird duo of Unannounced and Delago Deluxe. The former made a superb start to his career, winning six on the trot, and is in fact unbeaten in sprint races and down the straight. He lost his unbeaten record to Depardieu in the Byerley Turk but emerged with his reputation intact as he was going beyond 1200m for the first time that day and battled on gamely after setting the pace. They meet on identical terms here and he has every chance of reversing the form over this more favourable trip. His most recent effort is readily disregarded as he was used as a pacemaker in the KRA Guineas and was doubtful of seeing out the mile in any event.
Delago Deluxe won the Medallion at this meeting last season, to cap an unbeaten 2-year-old campaign and seal the Equus award in his category. He looked to have the world at his feet at that stage but hasn't quite risen to the same heights this season. He's put together two wins and three places from six starts this term, which is not the worst record by any means but he has only been able to win against much weaker than this and was well beaten in the Diadem Stakes, probably his acid test of the season thus far. He's obviously no slouch but will have to improve on his most recent efforts to have a hand in the finish here.
Deliver The Power completes the younger contingent and is higher up in the handicap, set to carry 56.5kg. He put together an impressive winning sequence in Johannesburg, which included the Tommy Hotspur and Man O'War Sprint before bumping the big guns in the Computaform Sprint. He ran well enough to finish fourth and now find himself 1.5kg better off with third-placed What A Winter. That gives him a perfectly plausible chance on paper but if he couldn't beat What A Winter on home turf over 1000m, it's hard to see him reversing the form over the extra furlong here. Make no mistake, he's a talented sprinter but may just find a few too good for him over this trip at this level.
Antious is a doubtful starter at the time of writing, having made respiratory noises after his below-part last effort and suffered an interrupted preparation as a result. Fit and well, he is a big runner here at the weights, having notched up an impressive Gr 2 double in the form of the Hertz Merchants and Senor Santa Handicap, but it's now a matter of complete guesswork whether he can reproduce his best form after his recent travails.
Those looking for a suitable outsider in the hope of a big quartet payout may well want to have a look at the Joey Ramsden pairing of Copper Parade and Shades Of Indigo. It's hard to see either of them winning this, but a minor placing is not quite as fanciful as their recent form suggests.
Copper Parade suddenly bounced back to form when coming to KwaZulu-Natal around this time last year and ran a cracker to finish second in the Mercury Sprint. His recent form is uninspiring but this is his best trip and while he is unreliable, he is the sort who is capable of popping up in this field if the winter air once again gets his juices flowing.
Shades Of Indigo caused one of the shocks of the season when flying up late to win the Betting World Merchants at Kenilworth but subsequently showed that was no fluke by chasing home Depardieu and Divine Jet when lugging huge weights in handicap company. He's actually 4kg better off with Depardieu for a one-length beating, so his cause here is by no means a hopeless one. He's been carrying in excess of 60kg in his last four starts and now suddenly finds himself at the bottom of the weights with just 52kg on his back. If things go his way, he could just sneak into the frame.
Rebel Knight has been fine servant to his connections and although struggling to get his head in front, he is seldom far off them. He's been racing in competitive company and ran well in the Drill Hall Stakes, keeping on for fourth after making the running from a poor draw. He has place prospects here at his best.
Snowdon seldom runs a bad race and is in good form at present. His efforts behind Link Man and Antious over this sort of trip show that he is no slouch over sprints but one suspects that he needs another furlong at this level to show his best.
Rushing Wind has run well in a number of the country's big sprint races, including a creditable second in this very race behind J J The Jet Plane. However, his hallmark was his fine turn of foot, which would see him charging through late into the placings and he hasn't been able to summon up that sort of finishing kick of late. He's well-weighted in the context of his best form but is hard to fancy on his most recent efforts.
The Shark is a decent sort and seems to go well at this time of year but his overall profile leaves him with a bit to do in this field while Two Tone and Moroccan appear to have lost form of late.
Reserve runner Mike's Choice has consistent recent form and has been running well behind the likes of Antious and Castlethorpe but he looks to have too much to do in this line-up.