Ilha Bela took a while to come to hand but she finally started to live up to her impressive pedigree when contesting the Triple Tiara in Gauteng earlier this season and she is set to go a step further when she contests the Gr 1 Woolavington 2000 at Greyville on Saturday.
Narrowly beaten in the first two legs of the Tiara, Ilha Bela finished off the competition in fine style, scoring a runaway win in the SA Oaks. She meets a stronger field here but she won with so much in hand that day that it's hard to look beyond her. The drop back in trip won't be a problem as she was only beaten by a nose in the Gauteng Fillies Guineas in February so, if anything, the 2000m sits right in the middle of her range. Anton Marcus rides for trainer Mike de Kock and will don the famous Wilgerbosdrift silks, so Ilha Bela really has ticks in all the boxes and looks well set to notch up her first Gr 1 win.
One horse who already has a Gr 1 victory to her name and has shown she can beat Ilha Bela is Bambina Stripes, who scored a superb win in the SA Fillies Classic at the end of March. She came from well back that day, having dropped out from a poor draw, but so did Ilha Bela and there shouldn't be much between them once again. There are two reasons to side with Ilha Bela to reverse the Fillies Classic form: they now go an extra furlong, which should give her a distinct edge as Bambina Stripes now tries this trip for the first time; and her Oaks run indicated that she had improved even further since the Classic.
Bambina Stripes' connections will be coming here with a sense of mission as their filly endured a horror run in the KRA Fillies Guineas, dislodging jockey Alec Forbes early on, and they will be keen to make up for that disappointment. The Argentine-bred hasn't done much wrong to date, boasts an impressive turn of foot and will be right there if she reproduces her best form.
Thunder Dance is arguably the most accomplished filly in the race, having won the prestigious Paddock Stakes against older opposition. Sceptics will point out that it was a tiny field and run at a farcical pace, which undid favourite Beach Beauty, who had to settle for second, but that may be harsh on Thunder Dance. She was certainly going the right way coming into the race, having twice filled third place behind Princess Victoria including in the Cape Fillies Guineas and, indeed, had shown improvement with every run up to that point. She's obviously had her setbacks since then, though, as she was scratched from the KRA Fillies Guineas and then ran miles below her best form in a Pinnacle Stakes over 1450m last time out. That run is probably best forgiven, given her interrupted preparation and, on the assumption that she will come on for that effort, she could be in with a chance here. Her wellbeing is obviously the subject of some guesswork for punters right now but if the filly we saw in Cape Town during the summer turns up on Saturday, she will go close.
Beloved Betty was ignored in the betting in the KRA Fillies Guineas but made a mockery of her long odds with a top effort. A long way back turning for home, she ran on strongly in the closing stages to finish a creditable fourth and did so in the manner of a filly looking for more ground. If she can reproduce that sort of effort, she has every chance of making the frame here.
Dubai Gina ran well to finish fourth in the Cape Fillies Guineas and then showed her liking for a bit of ground when coming out two runs later to win the listed Sun Classique Handicap over 2400m. She was returning from a four-month break and making her KwaZulu-Natal debut when fifth in the East Coast Handicap last time out and that was by no means a bad run: set to lug 61.5kg, she faced a very difficult task at the weights against some battle-hardened older fillies and mares and was only beaten two lengths into fifth, conceding a whopping 9kg to winner Feel My Love. She's now back against her own age group at level weights and while it's questionable at this stage whether she deserves to be rated level on a mark of 104 with the likes of Ilha Bela and Thunder Dance (and three points clear of Bambina Stripes) she has still shown enough to be given a definite place chance here.
Felix The Cat seems to be something of a Greyville specialist and has done really well in the three big events she has contested here, placing in all of the Golden Slipper, Thekwini Stakes (both Gr 1) and the Gr 2 KRA Fillies Guineas. So she certainly won't lack for class in taking on this field. The problem, though, is the distance. She beat Bambina Stripes over 1400m at this track two runs ago and everything we've seen so far points to her being more of a sprinter-miler type. On the other hand, she may yet relish the step up in trip (as Imperious Star did two years ago in this very race) and there's nothing in her pedigree to stop her enjoying the ten furlongs here, so she merits respect. Her supporters will have to put their money down and wait for the race to either confirm or dispel her stamina doubts.
Tresco was well beaten into fourth in the SA Oaks and appears to have an impossible task on paper in trying to reverse the form with Ilha Bela. However, she moved up really well at one stage before tiring late and that run suggested that the drop back in distance will suit her down to the ground. As mentioned, it's hard to see her reversing the form, but she could get closer over this shorter trip and has a quartet chance.
The rest look to be up against it here. Viva Maria and Bermuda Sloop have both shown some promise but failed when tried in feature company and in any event, Viva Maria is likely to make the running for stablemate Ilha Bela. Bermuda Sloop could, perhaps be one to include in the hope of boosting the quartet payout, as there have been hints that this could be her distance, but another failure here would leave her pretty much bereft of any more excuses.
Avenue Of Gold stays well and was not disgraced in the Oaks when third but will need a stiffer test of stamina than 2000m in this line-up and is likely to find things happening too quickly for her liking.
Razzle Dazzle Rose is another one who showed some promise in handicap company but was put in her place when upped to graded level.
None of the others has even raced at listed level and it's hard to make a case for any of them on bare form.