The juveniles will be very much in the spotlight on Saturday, courtesy of two Gr 1 events to be run over 1400m. Inevitably, there is a fair amount of guesswork involved as to the improvement of these youngsters relative to each other and the Golden Horseshoe, in particular, looks type sort of race where the form book could well be thrown out of the window.
Trainer Corne Spies and jockey Jeff Lloyd could potentially team up for a big double here, although they will face plenty of competition and will really need things to come together perfectly on the day.
The selection of War Horse in the Golden Horseshoe is bound to raise a few eyebrows and understandably so after a dismal effort in the SA Nursery. But he may be worth a chance to redeem himself here and looks a big runner if he can regain the form that saw him win the Gr 3 Protea Stakes from an impossible position two runs ago. The subsequent SA Nursery disaster looks too bad to be true and it's worth noting that he was rushed along to keep up with the early pace that day, whereas he has always looked the sort who is better when given a chance early on. He also appears to be crying out for more ground and even the extra furlong he tackles here may prove to be on the sharp side. But he is very well drawn and with Lloyd in the saddle, he could prove to be the value bet here.
The most interesting runner in the race is Honorine, who is unbeaten in two starts but now ventures into unknown territory, racing beyond 1000m for the first time and also taking on the colts after racing against her own sex thus far. It's intriguing, to say the least, that she's now running in the Golden Slipper earlier in the day, but she must be showing something for trainer Mike de Kock to pitch her into the deep end like this. She has an awkward draw but Anthony Delpech will go a long way towards offsetting that and she merits respect here.
Fly Me Over is well-bred and didn't run too badly when sixth in the Medallion. He was slightly disappointing when touched off in a Juvenile Plate next time out but he has hinted at some promise and is one the few runners in the field who is proven over the trip.
My Jellybean is overdue a win, having contested and been placed in every feature race for juvenile males run in the province thus far this season. He most recently finished third in the Medallion, so he certainly has the form to be a factor here. The big question is how he will cope with the step up in trip as he appears more of sprinting type. He's as honest as they come and jumps from pole position so he will be there if he sees out the trip.
Ziparana won impressively on debut and then ran two fair races in the SA Nursery and Medallion, finishing second and fifth respectively. He's clearly got ability but, given the early pace he has shown in his races, one suspects he is also more of a printing type and he may not enjoy the extra furlong.
Ottimo, on the other hand, seems the sort who will get even further. He finished second in the Gr 2 Umkhomazi Stakes after being outpaced early on and only getting going right at the death (he was later promoted to first after an objection by third-placed My Jelly Bean against original winner Contador). Ottimo is a horse we may well hear more of in the future but one gets the impression that a fast-run 1400m at this tight track won't really suit him and we may only see the best of him when he tries a mile or even further.
It's a very tricky event but War Horse may just be good enough to see off Honorine, Fly Me Over and My Jelly Bean.
Moving on to the Golden Slipper for fillies, the race has attracted a high-quality field and, unlike last year's edition where Princess Victoria stood out, the 2012 renewal will see a clutch of very smart-looking fillies going head to head.
Spies and Lloyd look to be on firmer ground here with the very genuine Straight Set, although this field looks to have more quality and depth than the Horseshoe. Straight Set is yet to miss the placings in six starts and, after twice chasing home Franny in feature races up in Gauteng, she enjoyed her day in the sun when narrowly beating All Is Secret in the Gr 2 Debutante. That form was franked handsomely when All Is Secret won the Gr 1 Allan Robertson Championship but the most interesting subplot of that race was the absence of Straight Set who opted to take on the colts in the Tsogo Sun Medallion on the same day. She ran an absolute cracker, making late progress for second and, crucially, she is proven over this 1400m trip. She jumps from a reasonable draw and can be relied on to give 100% if the race comes down to a scrap at the end..
Vaughan Marshall's pair of Valdivia and All Is Secret were expected to dominate the Allan Robertson but the latter was a beaten favourite and could only finish third behind her stablemate. Interestingly, she didn't show her usual early speed that day and only seemed to get going late. Sire Var gets them to go over all distances and Valdivia may - contrary to first impressions - enjoy the step up in trip. She has drawn very well whereas All Is Secret has to jump from the car park, so a reversal of form is not out of the question. Having said that, All Is Secret oozes class and Anton Marcus retains the ride. Her popular dam Secret Of Victoria was an accomplished sprinter but, as a daughter of Captain Al, All Is Secret should cope with her first attempt at this distance
Mike de Kock also sends out two runners and Rumya looks the pick with Delpech aboard and on the back of an impressive debut win. She has more to do here but it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see her equal to the task. Stablemate Tayba also won well on debut but was then turned over at odds of 1/6 when touched off over this trip. She does have attractive pedigree, though, and it's worth noting that both these runners are very well drawn. Neither can be ignored.
Dylan's Promise showed great courage when fighting back to win the Devon Air Stakes last time out and won't have any trouble with the trip. She faces a much tougher task here but there's nothing wrong with the sort of fighting spirit she showed and she could stay on into a place.
Schiffer won easily on debut but that was over 1000m and it's hard to assess her chances here, but Dennis Drier has clearly seen something he likes and she may be one for the larger quartets.
Of the rest, Kings Temptress deserves a mention after a stunning debut win in the SA Fillies Nursery - at odds of 150/1, no less. She then flopped in the Allan Robertson but never looked comfortable on the Scottsville surface on a dat when many runners ran well before form. She may be worth another chance but one already senses that she will prefer more of a galloping track than she encounters here. She does appear the sort who will enjoy the step up to seven furlongs and she's not entirely out of it from a good draw.
This is going to be one of the best races of the day. With a nice clutch of high-quality runners to choose from, Straight Set is the marginal selection with the main threats coming from the Marshall coupling and Rumya.