NOTHER RUSSIA WINS THE ACACIA
Nicci Garner: The Mike de Kock stable are keeping their options open with Janoobi, with both the SA Classic and HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes on Saturday 1 April pencilled in as possibilities, according to assistant trainer Mathew de Kock.
Janoobi, of course, won the R1-million Betting World Gauteng Guineas (Grade 2) over 1600m at Turffontein last Saturday, starting at 11-2 and leading virtually throughout. He battled on gamely under a vintage ride from Piere Strydom and just held off favourite Al Sahem, who put in a terrific challenge in the final stages. Janoobi’s stablemate Heavenly Blue (9-2) finished third.
The race was the first leg of this year’s SA Triple Crown, with the 1800m SA Classic forming the middle leg and the 2450m SA Derby on 6 May the third. A R2-million bonus is offered to a horse who wins all three legs.
De Kock does not believe the Triple Crown bonus will be paid out this year. “In my opinion Heavenly Blue will be the one to beat in the SA Classic, plus I’m not convinced Janoobi will go more than 1800m.”
Janoobi, he said, “took the race very well and is taking it easy this week because he was at a peak and really well on Saturday. We’ll keep him ticking over until next month”.
Heavenly Blue, on the other hand, was “not as well or as ready” as Janoobi for the Gauteng Guineas because his main mission is the SA Classic. “I can’t afford to be too soft on him because I’ve got to help him come on a little bit,” said De Kock. “I’m over the moon with his third placing. He’s going to make a lot of improvement. We’ll finally see the best of him in the Classic over a distance he’s always wanted, 1800m and more.”
Janoobi gave Mike de Kock his 3,000th career winner after wins earlier in the meeting by Rafeef and Nother Russia.
The multiple champion trainer was at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai for Super Saturday, the dress rehearsal for the Dubai World Cup meeting. Sadly, the joy of a historic milestone for De Kock was cut short when an hour after Janoobi’s win, his charge Ertijaal had to be put down after fracturing a sesamoid in the Jebel Hatta.
It put a damper on a big day for the stable at Turffontein, where Rafeef gave the team the first leg of a feature-race treble in the Grade 2 R400,000 Hawaii Stakes over 1400m.
Said De Kock: “The obvious next stepping stone for Rafeef is the Horse Chestnut Stakes. The 1600m is his maximum, I think. He also took his race well and is very fresh.”
Their second win came in the R250,000 Acacia Handicap (Grade 3) over 1600m with Nother Russia (7-1) overcoming a very wide draw to beat Bella Sonata by a long head.
“I think the older she’s got the better she’s got,” said De Kock. “A big thanks to Jess Slack (of owner Mauritzfontein Stud) for giving her that time. She was very well going into Saturday’s race and if she’d drawn in single figures I would have been much more confident.
“You can see by that performance she’s definitely better than her rating. It’s gone up the maximum eight points (4kg), but I’m happy to take what the handicappers give her after a win like that.”
Her stable companion Shaama was a weak favourite but finished seventh and De Kock said her performance confirmed she’s best at 1200m and 1400m.
“I think a true-run 1600m would find her out,” he said. “She took the race well and we’ll be bringing her back to 1160m.”
Fillies he saddled finished second, third, fifth and sixth behind easy winner Smiling Blue Eyes in the R500,000 Wilgerbosdrift Gauteng Fillies Guineas.
The race is the first leg of the Triple Tiara, which offers a R1-million bonus and also comprises the SA Fillies Classic on 1 April and the SA Oaks on 6 May.
He had given second-placed Al Hawraa a “money chance” in the preliminaries because “she’d improved in her work”, but even he was impressed with the run.
“She only got going late and will be better in the 1800m Fillies Classic next month. She’s a straightforward filly, easy to work with.”
Was he a bit disappointed with favourite Orchid Island’s third placing? “Not at all. I think 1600m is too short for her, plus she had six weeks between runs and missed work. She’s a small filly, so the going last Saturday was not her best – she prefers it a little bit on top. She’ll also be going for the Fillies Classic.
“I think Belle Rose ran a cracker in fifth. She was stone last at the 400m mark and ran fifth, so made up a lot of ground. On pedigree, she is crying out for more ground so will definitely go for the next leg of the Triple Tiara.”
As for sixth-placed Ektifaa, who came in off a four-run winning sequence which included beating the boys in the Tony Ruffel Stakes, he said: “She wasn’t disgraced. The stamina doubts were there and she just didn’t see out the ‘mile’. We’ll re-programme her to see if she’s good enough for a top-class 1200m race.”
He believes his three Classic fillies are even in the ability stakes, but said when pressed: “If I had to put my head on a block this far ahead of the Fillies Classic, I’d still side with Orchid Island – providing she gets better going – because she’s got more class than the others.”