A full field of 16 fillies and mares are set to do battle in Saturday’s Gr1 HSH Princess Charlene Of Monaco Empress Club Stakes at Turffontein.
Three-year-old Safe Harbour (Elusive Fort) looks the one to beat and was priced up favourite. One of 3 sophomores in the Empress Club Stakes, Safe Harbour was just touched off last time out in the Gr1 Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic, and, from a bang in-form yard, and with a good draw, she is the one to beat.
Fort Ember, another by Elusive Fort, could give the favourite most to think about, with connections apparently confident of a good run. Winner of the Gr3 Flamboyant Stakes threestarts back, Fort Ember, who jumps from pole position, was beaten seven lengths by reigning Horse Of The Year Legal Eagle (Greys Inn) in the Gr1 H F Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes last time out and takes a drop in class here.
Cape raider Star Express (Silvano) is the only visitor here and was narrowly beaten in the Gr1 Klawervlei Majorca Stakes last time out. She is, however, making her Gauteng debut and is not well drawn in 11 –and her wellbeing on the Highveldt needs to be taken on trust.
The favourite is one of five runners from the Sean Tarry yard, who also saddle Intergalactic (Kahal), Trophy Wife (Tiger Ridge), Tahini (Silvano) and Heaps Of Fun (Visionaire). Former Gr2 Ipi Tombe Challenge winner Intergalactic was making her comeback run when well beaten by Tahini last time out and should strip a fitter horse on Saturday. Trophy Wife made a pleasing comeback when a running on for second behind star stable mate Carry On Alice over an inadequate trip of 1100m and did finish second in this race in 2015.
Tahini impressed when skating home to land a pinnacle stakes over 1600m last time out but faces a jump in class here, while former Gr2 Fillies Guineas winner Heaps Of Fun needs to improve on her last two efforts.
Former Gr1 SA Fillies Classic/Gr2 SA Oaks winner Juxtapose (Judpot) meets Tahini on 3kgs better off for a four length beating last time out, while the Van Zyl runner Bella Sonata (Silvano), just beaten in the Gr3 Acacia Handicap last time, looks to have a tough task jumping from draw 16.
Bella Sonata’s Acacia conqueror Nother Russia (Tiger Ridge) is another runner with a big chance here. Supplemented into the Gr1 Premier’s Champions Challenge, the lightly raced four-year-old is yet to finish out of the first three in eight career outings, but is trying Gr1 company for the first time. Her stable mate The Centenary (Mastercraftsman) appears better over further and is poorly drawn in 14.
Third and final of the Mike de Kock runners in Saturday’s race is promising 3yo Al Hawraa (New Approach), who was runner up, to Smiling Blue Eyes (Dynasty), in the Gr2 Gauteng Fillies Guineas two starts back. A poor draw will not make things easy for the filly, however, who was beaten just over a length by Safe Harbour last time out.
Anna Pavlova (St Petersburg), the last of the 3yos in Saturday’s race, is another poorly drawn and has yet to win over a mile, and she has ground to find with Al Hawraa on their Fillies Guineas meeting.
Recent Listed Jacaranda Handicap winner Polyphonic (Judpot) looks held by Nother Russia and Bella Sonata and has a wide draw of 12 ot overcome, while Kilauea (Trippi) is another held on her run in the Gr3 Acacia Handicap and is also poorly drawn.
Former Gr3 Fillies Mile winner Negroamaro (Fort Wood) is hard to fancy on current form.