London Call on track for Tsogo Sun Sprint

The Mark Dixon-trained London Call was an impressive winner of a Pinnacle Stakes race over 1100m at Scottsville on Sunday under Marco van Rensburg and will by all accounts be a big runner in the R1m, Grade 1 Tsogo Sun Sprint (1200m) at the Festival Of Speed meeting on May 27 at Scottsville.

Another KZN Grade 1 hopeful for the Festival Of Speed might well be the filly Great Aim, who is trained out of the small yard of Ivan Moore, who has proved before he can get the best out of a good horse.

London Call, picture Nkosi Hlophe

Van Rensburg was impressed with the big stride of London Call on Sunday and said he would be “hard to beat” if carrying the right weight in the Tsogo Sun. He was thankful for the advice he received from London Call’s regular pilot Brandon Lerena from Mauritius and hoped he would keep the ride. He reckoned there would be a lot of jockeys trying to get aboard the six-year-old Kahal gelding.

London Call has only had 13 career starts, winning eight of them. Dixon has learnt how to peak him for a race by using the Summerveld sand tracks, as he takes a long time to recover from his races and his issues mean he is unable to work on the grass.

The connections were bitterly disappointed, if not angry, when London Call was eliminated from the Tsogo Sun field last year. However, he has made sure of his place this year as he is unbeaten in four starts from 1100m to 1400m this season and ran off a 108 merit rating on Sunday. In fact Dixon said he is only getting better, so missing last year’s race might have turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

On Sunday, he beat a good field by 1.75 lengths, despite carrying topweight of 61,5kg.

There were good Tsogo Sun trials for a number of other horses in the race. The Justin Snaith-trained Sergeant Hardy finished an excellent second considering he is only a three-year-old and carried joint topweight.

Furthermore, he likely needed the run, his first since outing since his disappointing unplaced run on Sun Met day when starting at 15/10. When at his best Sergeant Hardy is capable of blitzing a field, but on this occasion he sat just off the pace but had to be pushed along from a long way out, so will likely come on a lot from the run.

Dennis Drier’s Grade 1 winners Guinness and Seventh Plain ran good trials in third and fourth, although they were both receiving 3kg from the winner. The former was returning from a long break, while the latter, who ran on in eye-catching style, was having his first outing since the Betting World Cape Flying Championship on Sun Met day.

Drier’s evergreen Barbosa was also not disgraced in seventh, considering he was carrying joint topweight and had a small traffic problem late on. The Brett Crawford-trained Search Party ran a good sixth with joint topweight, considering he likely needed the run, his first since the Cape Flying.

There were also excellent big race trials from the Duncan Howells pair Saratoga Dancer and Ten Gun Salute. Both are entered in the Vodacom Durban July and they stayed on for fifth and eighth respectively.

Earlier on the powerfully built Drier-trained Var filly Vanity Fair led a Maiden Juvenile Plate over 1000m from pillar to post under Anthony Delpech to win easing up by 2.5 lengths. This franked the form of the Ivan Moore-trained Great Aim, who is by Main Aim. On debut over 1000m at Scottsville Great Aim showed fine cruising speed before quickening to win by 1.5 lengths, beating Vanity Fair by 1.75 lengths.

The yard said she had “woken up” from that run and would now be aimed at the Strelitzia Stakes over 1100m at Scottsville on April 30. That race will tell whether the Allan Robertson is a realistic target. Moore won a juvenile Grade 1 with the Australian-bred Fighting Warrior in 2011 on one of the few occasions he was given the chance to train a top horse.

By David Thiselton