Kolkata has been battling to get back into the winner's box but the 4-year-old could be in for a change of fortune when he contests the Gr 2 Gold Vase over 3000m at Greyville on Saturday. Sean Tarry's charge has plenty going for him in an open contest, jumping from a good draw with Piere Strydom aboard and enjoying some healthy weight concessions from his key rivals.
The grey son of Requiem always had the makings of a decent stayer but he really shot to prominence when a fine second to Aslan in the Gold Cup (pictured) at the end of last season. That was a top class effort, given his inexperience at the time and he looked well set to land at least one of the big staying prizes on offer during the Gauteng spring and autumn seasons. It didn't quite turn out that way as he had to settle for second in both the Java Handicap and Racing Association Handicap but those efforts weren't too bad given that he was beaten by Ilsanpietro - who was at the top of his game at the time - and Gorongosa, who would be a short-priced favurite if she were running here.
Kolkata has continued to hold form pretty well and his last two efforts were respectable enough over trips that were far too short for him. He now gets to race back over a more suitable distance and he may finally get it together on Saturday.
Aslan is also in the line-up and there's no reason why he can't confirm the Gold Cup form with his younger stablemate, especially on 2kg better terms. However, he is not the most reliable sort, although - to be fair to him - he has now put in three good efforts in a row, most recently finishing third to Gorongosa in a Pinnacle event over 2800m. He certainly has come back to something like his best since reinventing himself as a stayer and is capable of winning this if in a galloping mood.
Trainer Mike Bass also sends out two runners, neither of whom is straightforward but both of whom could feature here at best. Golden Parachute has flattered to deceive on too many occasions, but has been known to pop up from time to time. His recent efforts in Port Elizabeth don't inspire much confidence, though, and it's going to require a huge amount of improvement for him to get in a blow here.
Thanks John, on the other hand, is a lively prospect. His career has been interrupted by injury which explains the in-and-out nature of his formline but he is a very capable campaigner when all the cogs in the wheel are running smoothly. His fourth place to Blake in the J & B Reserve Stayers and his very close seventh to the same horse in the Lonsdale Stirrup Cup showed that he still retains some of his old ability. He's quite well-weighted on his best form and, if his old niggles don't resurface, he could may a bold bid here, especially with Jeff Lloyd up.
Seal, winner of the SA Derby in 2011, has been campaigning over much shorter since then and, indeed, his most recent win came over a mile. It's interesting to see him back over a marathon trip - his first such attempt since the Derby - and he has the class to feature here as he has been bumping some very good company over the middle distances.
Ilsanpietro is an obvious contender here on his best form but comes into the race on the back of a few below-par efforts. In fairness, though, he was less than two lengths behind Blake when ninth in the Lonsdale, so it's not as if he's been beaten out of sight. If he reproduces the type of form that saw him trounce Kolkata in the Java Handicap and run second in the Summer Cup, he has every chance of winning this.
Storm Sagaz is an interesting prospect as he has only recently been stepped up in trip an he seems to be enjoying the experience. There was nothing wrong with his second place to Gorongosa over 2800m last time out and he comes in with a handy weight here. He needs to go in for the larger quartets.
In Writing regained got back on the winning trail for the first time in ages when scoring a runaway win in the Chairmans over 3200m at Kenilworth in February and then followed up with another success when beating Aslan in a Pinnacle event over 2500m at Clairwood. His subsequent failure in the Betting World 1900 is readily forgiven as the trip would have been on the sharp side and, as one of the proven stayers in the race, he merits respect.
Heyouneverknow ran two cracking races when placed behind Gorongosa in feature races at Turffontein and that sort of form brings her into the reckoning. However, the overall depth of this field represents a much stiffer test for her and her failure to win in Port Elizabeth last time out dampens enthusiasm for her chances in this line-up.
Predestination is a capable sort, having gone very close in this race last year but he is far from reliable and proceeded to lose the plot soon afterwards. He has recently looked more like his old self and could sneak into a minor placing if he decides to gallop, but it's anybody's guess which version of the Aussie-bred will pitch up on Saturday.
The rest of them look to be up against it but this is a race that is capable of throwing up some very strange results, last year being case in point, and the formbook could just as easily be thrown out of the window. There are several in with chances but Kolkata is taken to land the spoils with Thanks John, Aslan and Ilsanpietro the main dangers. Storm Sagaz looks to be the roughie to throw in for trifecta and quartet purposes.