THERE is more than just the winner’s cheque at stake in Saturday’s World Sports Betting Gold Cup. The race is often the deciding event when it comes to the category of Equus Champion Stayer and that is likely to be the case for the Equus Awards voting panel again when 16 runners line up at Hollywoodbets Greyville with a testing 3200m ahead of them.
Stayers from all over the country are represented and Saturday’s winner is almost assured to be crowned Champion Stayer but the list of possible winners is a lengthy one.
The race has attracted all the top stayers from around the country but the race sponsors have nailed their colours to the mast with only two runners priced up in single figures. It’s My Turn, a winner two season’s back, and Marchingontogether, 5-2 and 33-10 respectively with 12-1 bar.
It’s My Turn is the consummate stayer, having won the Track & Ball Derby (2400m) and the Gold Vase (3000m) leading up to his Gold Cup victory two season’s back.
He missed the following season through injury but Dean Kannemeyer has nursed him back to full fitness and goes into Saturday’s race as a worthy favourite after his second in the Track & Ball Derby and creditable fifth in the Vodacom Durban July.
However, it may be the Derby result that holds the key to Saturday’s race. Marchingontogether was giving It’s My Turn 1kg over the Hollywoodbets Scottsville 2400m and on Saturday, Gavin van Zyl’s runner will be in receipt of 2.5kg, a 3.5kg swing in favour of Marchingontogether.
But while It’s My Turn has had a race since (VDJ) Van Zyl opted to keep Marchingontogether fresh for the Gold Cup.
On the other hand, It’s My Turn is proven over a trip that Marchingontogether has yet to try so the tussle between these two may boil down to a case of stamina versus weight.
However, Marchingontogether is finally showing the form that he promised early in his career and if his Derby run is any indication, then he should see out the extra four furlongs comfortably.
With some rain predicted over the weekend, upcountry stayers who have been pounding it over solid winter turf, may appreciate a little give in the ground and best of them could be Gold Bowl runner-up Factor Fifty and Gold Bowl winner Imperial Ruby, a head separating them at the end of 3200m.
Both have solid staying credentials and are sure to give the two more fancied runners a go.
Anton Marcus, successful on It’s My Turn two season’s back, has been booked by David Nieuwenhuizen for his mare Factor Fifty who finished two lengths back to Dynasty’s Blossom in the Gold Vase and a half-length back to Imperial Ruby who finished fourth. Regular pilot Piere Strydom is back aboard Imperial Ruby while the blinkers go on Factor Fifty and there should not be much between the two again.
Of the balance, Dark Moon Rising finished ahead of both Factor Fifty and Imperial Ruby in the Gold Vase and appears to have found his right trip but there are others in with more than just hopeful chances including Shenanigans, Before Noon, Magnificent Seven and possibly Eyes Wide Open.
Racing’s two big hitters, Do It Again and Rainbow Bridge go head to head yet again in the Grade 1 World Sports Betting Champions Cup over 1800m.
This will be the 11th confrontation between Do It Again and Rainbow Bridge with the score currently level at 5-5. Do It Again has headed his rival in the last two Vodacom Durban Julys, the 2018 Green Point Stakes, the 2019 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and the 2019 Gold Challenge.
Rainbow Bridge has the advantage in two Sun Mets, and ironically, the 2019 Green Point Stakes, the 2020 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and the 2020 Gold Challenge.
Warren Kennedy felt the 2200m of the Durban July was just beyond Rainbow Bridge’s ambit, but the Champions Cup is over 1800m and there should not be much between them. Kennedy is back aboard Eric Sands’ runner while Anton Marcus is once again on Justin Snaith-trained Do It Again.
Rainbow Bridge is the defending champion, having beaten Cirillo – also in this event – in last year’s race. Golden Ducat finished fourth in the Durban July and will have his supporters in the Champions Cup with Donovan Dillon reporting that his mount is working better than what he did before the VDJ.
The Grade 1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m looks an intriguing contest because some of the fancied runners, Kasimir, Chimichuri Run and Russet Air, will need to overcome wide draws.
The Premiers Champion Stakes and the Thekwini Stakes are both over 1600m and are normally the two Grade 1 races for juveniles. This year, as the lockdown took out two months of racing, it will be a bunch of three-year-olds who will contest these races.
Unfortunately, the general public will again be barred from attending the meeting that will be held behind closed doors but it will be streamed live and also covered by DStv and Tellytrack (new channel 249).
To add spice to the action, there are a number of very large carryovers on the day so many of the tote pools will be massive.