Mike De Kock's picks for Greyville

Four Grade 1 blockbusters and five other feature races, including Africa’s greatest equine marathon, are carded for Saturday’s Greyville meeting which brings down the curtain on the 2021/2 season. The return of a big crowd to the Durban July made South Africa’s flagship event a roaring success recently, and the presence of several July Day contenders on Gold Cup Day will go some way to return Cup Day to its own former glory.

Aragosta was one of Mike de Kock’s July hopefuls and the SA Derby winner was not disgraced in finishing six lengths off Sparkling Water after having to ease at a critical stage. Mike has always believed the 3200m of the G3 Gold Cup to be within Aragosta’s grasp. He said this week: “He looks an improver, but the conditions don’t really suit him because of the condensed structure of the weights. It makes things tougher for him, but on his good July run he’s in with a chance. I wouldn’t banker him, but I’m happy with him, he goes into the race fit and well.”

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Nebraas came from the bottom end of the weight scale at 52,5kg to win last year’s Gold Cup and the inclination is to look at that bracket again for a similarly well weighted runner this year. Black Thorn, Out Of Your League, Decorated, Rex Union, Salvator Mundi and Chewbaca all make some appeal, but their trainers were concerned that their runners were disadvantaged by the condensed scale.

The most positive in the lead-up this week were indeed Nebraas’ trainer Sean Tarry, who said he’s runner can “carry the big weight and has had a lovely preparation” and Paul Peter, who trains Nebraas’ arch-rival Shangani and said, “He’s in a very good space at the moment. This has been his mission from day dot.”

On the old adage ‘horses for courses’ and the fact that Nebraas historically comes to his useful best at this time of the year, he is taken to complete the Gold Cup double from Aragosta and Decorated, perhaps the best longshot in the contest.

Mike de Kock saddles Tayooba in the G2 Debutante Stakes and said: “Tayooba was an impressive winner over 1000m last time out and I think she’s an out-and-out sprinter. I actually quite like this filly, I think she can win a few more and I’d give her a Place chance in this line-up.”

His next runner is Littlemarysunshine in the G1 Thekwini Stakes over 1600m. Mike noted: “She’s by Silvano, improving and needs the mile and more. The form of her last run has worked out quite well, the two fillies that beat her were touched off in respective feature races after that, so I do give Littlemarysunshine a realistic place chance.”

The versatile Al Muthana lines up in the HKJC World Pools Champions Cup over 1800m and the stable will be hoping he can produce the kind of run that saw him win the G1 Gold Challenge in this competitive weight-for-age contest. July-winning jockey SManga Khumalo has been booked for the ride, he has won on the gelding four times before.
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Said Mike: “Al Muthana is doing very well. He’s had a great prep, I can’t fault anything, There are a few top rivals, but if he runs his usual, honest race he’ll be in the shake-up.”

Champion filly Captain’s Ransom, a disappointing beaten favourite on July Day, gets a chance to redeem herself in the G1 Mercury Sprint over 1200m but this won’t be an easy task in open company. Computaform Sprint winner Master Archie, Golden Horseshoe winner Alysian Chief and hard-knocking Battle Force are three ace male runners among her rivals, and William Robertson is the wild card in a race that could spring a surprise.

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Published: 07/29/2022