The KZN Breeders Million Mile, which headlines this weekend's action,
is a great initiative on the part of its sponsors and it's not just the
victorious connections who could depart from Greyville with bulging
Sunday: the race looks a rather open affair and chances are that
and quartet winners could also be set for a sizeable payday.
In a race with no stand-out runner, it may pay to stick with the
combination of trainer Mike de Kock and jockey Anthony Delpech, a move
which more often than not proves profitable in these big events.
Checcetti is not one of the obvious stars in the de Kock yard and
she's had a somewhat chequered career but - even though she has
campaigned mostly against her own sex - there's no doubting that she
has bumped some pretty strong company along the way. Beating stablemate
Flirtation, who has won the Summer Cup and Colorado King Stakes in her
time, was no mean feat two runs back and, prior to that, she was not
beaten too far behind another of her stable companions, star Europa
Point in the Acacia Handicap. Her most recent run was no disgrace
either - she was less than four lengths behind champion Princess
Victoria over an inadequate 1450m in the Tibouchina Stakes and that run
will have brought her on nicely for what could be her biggest payday to
date. She does have a big weight to contend with, but she is reasonably
well drawn over a course and distance where the barrier position will
prove fatal for many a runner's prospects. She's not a good
thing by any means, but she may prove to be the best option on balance.
Black Wing is another runner who has been bumping stronger opposition
than he meets here. Earlier in his career, he looked the sort who would
prefer further but he has actually seemed more comfortable since
dropping back in trip, winning a competitive mile event at his
penultimate start, and then shaping well enough behind proven Gr 1
performer Rushing Wind over 1500m last time out. Black Wing finished
fourth in the Daily News 2000 last season so, although he hasn't quite
lived up to that level of form since, he clearly does have ability. He
is another one with a big weight but he should have the measure of many
of his rivals here.
Former jockey Jeff Freedman sends out Silver Age and he could prove to
big runner here. Lightly raced, he was a juvenile Gr 2 winner last
season before finishing downfield in the Gr 1 Golden Horseshoe. He then
returned from a ten-month break and has shaped promisingly in both
visits to the track, most recently finishing second to Whiteline Fever,
who - on his best form - would be a likely favourite if he were running
here. It's Silver Age's first attempt beyond 1400m so his stamina will
have to be taken on
trust but he looks very attractively weighted, as the potential he
showed last season suggests he is much better than his official mark of
88. Crucially, he has a reasonable draw, while M J Byleveld will offer
plenty of assistance as well.
Baracah's recent form does not, at first glance, elicit much enthusiasm
but he has been taking on some of the best 3-year-olds around and it
could prove significant that his best recent effort came over this trip
when a close sixth (beaten just over two lengths) in the Gr 2 Gauteng
Guineas. A repeat of that effort would bring him right into it here,
especially as his subsequent failures came over more ground and it may
be that he's looking for the step back in trip. He is hopelessly drawn
but he is nicely weighted and does have the benefit of Piere Strydom in
the irons, which will help his cause significantly.
Shahrukh has shown some promise and is due a win after two seconds
in a row. His form to date suggests that he is best over slightly
shorter but he seldom runs a bad race and does have plenty in his
favour - he jumps from pole position, is handily weighted and enjoys
the services of Felix Coetzee. He could take a hand in the finish here.
Knock On Wood is a hardened campaigner who has performed reasonably
well in competitive company on the Highveld, most recently finishing a
respectable fifth to the up-and-coming Eton Square in the Jubilee
Handicap. His recent form is a bit in-and-out and he looks to be too
high in the weights to actually win this, but he should be in with a
place chance at best.
The Mousketeer was in the form of his life last year when winning this
race and going on to capture the Emerald Cup on the sand. He is both
talented and versatile at his best but his recent form leaves him with
a bit to do here, especially under top weight of 61kg. It's probably
going to be a case of wait-and-see for supporters banking on him
returning to form on Sunday.
Acapella is up in class and starts from a dreadful draw but he is
handily weighted and currently holding form well. If he can beat his
barrier position, he could make the frame.
The R1m prize on offer has attracted some strange entries from a
distance point of view. Wishful Eye and Furious Dancer are not short of
ability, but they are out and out sprinters and unless one of them
suddenly takes to the extra ground, it's hard to see them posing a
threat here. Coffee Sheik is also a sprinting sort, albeit he appears
the more likely to cope with a step up in trip. However, while he comes
into the race with consistent recent form, he does look to have too
much weight to contend with against the proven milers in the line-up.
At the other end of the spectrum, we find Penhaligon who is good form
this winter but whose record suggests that he needs at least 2000m to
be fully effective.
The rest look to have a bit to do on current form, albeit this is a
trickly-looking event and there is likely to be at least one
longer-priced runner finishing somewhere in the first four. Checcetti
is marginally preferred over Black Wing for top honours with
Silver Age and Baracah next best.