Mike de Kock knows what it takes to win a World Sports Betting Triple Crown. Of the four horses that have triumphed – Horse Chestnut, Louis The King, Abashiri and Malmoos – De Kock has trained two – the first and the last. Tomorrow, Safe Passage in Turffontein will continue his quest to capture the three races when he sets up in the Grade 1 World Sports Betting SA Classic over 1800m on the Standside course.
Similarly, trainer Sean Tarry hopes Rain In Holland can keep her chances of capturing the Wilgerbosdrift Triple Tiara for fillies alive when his lead takes her place in the Grade 1 Wilgerbosdrift SA Fillies Classic, also over 1800m. Both horses won their respective first legs, the Grade 2 Gauteng Guineas and Grade 2 Gauteng Fillies Guineas, just four weeks ago. There is little doubt that both horses have an undeniable chance of going undefeated into the third stage, the Grade 1 SA Derby for Safe Passage and the Grade 2 SA Oaks for Rain In Holland, on Saturday 2 April.
De Kock made no bones about the fact that his main concern for Safe Passage was the Guineas’ 1600m, which he says could be a bit sharp. But Silvano’s son swept aside the opposition and won the race with authority, beating Pyromaniac comfortably by 1.50 lengths. He is priced at 14-10 to triumph in the SA Classic and there is little doubt that he is the horse they all need to beat.
S’manga Khumalo has driven him to victory in his last two starts and he’s back on board. Stable mate Aragosta seems to be his greatest danger. He lost ground at the start in the Gauteng Guineas, but held firm to finish fourth. He is undefeated in both of his 1800m starts, including the Grade 3 Sea Cottage Stakes. He is much better than his last run suggests and will finish a lot closer to his stable mate on this occasion. Richard Fourie drove him to victory in the Sea Cottage Stakes and will continue that role tomorrow at Turffontein. Some eyes will be on the undefeated Zeus, but he’ll need to run well above his current score of 99 if he wants to harass players like Safe Passage.
However, trainer Fabian Habib believes his charge is better than his assessment. “He hasn’t reached this caliber yet, so this is a real test. “I never ran him as a two-year-old because he was such a big baby, so I took my time with him. But this race has been his mission since he started racing,” Habib said yesterday. The son of SoŒ Falling Rain has run four times for four wins and was impressive from the start Many people felt that last time he was fighting to win against much weaker opponents and this jump in class will find him out But Habib refutes this.
“Last time he was only 65 to 70% fit. I’ve never had work in him, so he was really below par. “Since then, his preparation has gone well. Gavin (Lerena) recently worked with him and was very happy with him. The horse is in a good space and I think he is a great rider.” That said, Habib has no illusions about the sheer magnitude of the task. “You have to respect Safe Passage. Looking at the field, Safe Passage is the horse to beat, although I do see one or two other lurkers.
“I think any rain will help us. He seems to be growing an extra leg in the wet. “But at the end of the day, no matter how well he works, he has to prove it on the track. This is the highest caliber he has ever encountered, and he has to confirm that he can handle it.” It will be interesting to see if he can live up to his name and become the “king of the gods”.
Rain In Holland is also priced at 14-10, but the bookmakers still have a lot of respect for Desert Miracle which is also at 14-10. The latter took off with a very short trophy to win the Fillies Guineas, but after punching quite far from home, he dropped out late to finish third. She is doubtful about 1800m and will have to be ridden with great patience by Khumalo, who takes up the ride for the first time. When breeding, Rain In Holland, which is from Duke Of Marmalade, should have no problem with the extra 200m. Interestingly, a greater danger could come from Paul Peter trained Sprinkles who finished second in the Guineas. Two runs back she defeated Rain In Holland but that was more than 1400m. Tarry’s attack is enhanced with blinkers and with Fourie back up, is the runner they’ll all have to beat.