Three horses stand out in this Saturday’s HSH Princess Charlene Empress Club Stakes (Grade 1) over 1600m at Turffontein – top-rated Safe Harbour, Fort Ember and Cape raider Star Express.
Ultra-classy Safe Harbour is one of five runners from the Sean Tarry stable and her trainer admits she must be the stable elect. The three-year-old was beaten only a neck by Orchid Island in the SA Fillies Classic over 1800m. She is drawn at No 7 in the 16-horse field and will carry 2.5kg less than her two main rivals.
Fort Ember is a five-time winner who finished fifth behind Legal Eagle in the recent Horse Chestnut Stakes (Grade 1) over 1600m. Trainer Paul Peter believes the horse to beat in the race is Safe Harbour, but added: “Fort Ember is exceptionally well, has a great draw (No 1) and a top jockey (Anton Marcus). She’ll run an excellent race. I’m quietly confident.”
Safe Harbour, picture Liesl King
Cape-based Justin Snaith, who has a string of horses at Summerveld in KwaZulu-Natal until the end of winter, intends to bring Majorca Stakes runner-up Star Express to the Highveld on Friday to take part in the weight-for-age race, but said: “I’ll see how the week goes – I won’t bring her unless she’s got a chance. I liked the look of the race meeting and will always do my best to play a part when it counts.
“Star Express is a lovely filly who gets every bit of 1600m easily and she’s doing very well at home. I’m not happy with her wide draw – it’s a long way to come for that draw – but Anthony Delpech will give her a bit of a chance in the race so we still have a filly afterwards.”
Lightly raced Juxtapose, last year’s SA Fillies Classic and SA Oaks winner who made a promising comeback from a rest last time out, is the next highest-rated runner in the field. Her trainer Stanley Ferreira cautioned: “This is on the sharp side for her and she’s got entries in the Champions Challenge, Gerald Rosenberg and Gold Bowl – I think she’ll stay every metre of that 3200m because she’s a proper galloping lass – as well as the Vodacom Durban July.
“She’s a tiny filly but has a huge heart. She’s a little darling!”
Three horses are rated 101, Bella Sonata, Intergalactic and Trophy Wife.
Trainer Gavin van Zyl said he is “upbeat that Bella Sonata will run a good race even though she is drawn wide. Her form has turned around in her two runs since she had a wind op, she’s just got better and better, and I expect her to be in the first three.”
Tarry trains both Intergalactic and Trophy Wife.
“Intergalactic had a good prep and has been competitive in this type of company, so must have a chance. (Stablemate) Tahini did beat Intergalactic last time but was the fitter horse and there is a turnaround at the weights.”
He said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Trophy Wife in the mix. “She had a bit of a rushed prep but her comeback from a rest (when second to stable companion Carry On Alice over an inadequate 1100m recently) was very good.”
His other runner is Heaps Of Fun. “She’s had a good preparation but her form’s not been there in her last few runs. She will, however, bounce back soon and I don’t think she’s out of it.”
Polyphonic came back to best to win the Jacaranda Handicap from a wide draw recently and Alec Laird has booked jockey Piere Strydom for the filly again.
Laird was unavailable for comment, but Strydom said he was hoping for “luck from a bad draw against horses who are better weighted under the conditions”.
The Mike de Kock stable will field three horses – Nother Russia, Al Hawraa and The Centenary and assistant trainer Mathew de Kock said it would probably be close between the first two.
“The Centenary is coming off a long layoff and, although she enjoys running fresh, she’ll probably be better over 2000m. Nother Russia is consistent and always gives her best. She has a good draw, which is always a big help. Al Hawraa is best at 1600m – the 1800m of the SA Fillies Classic was a touch too far. She hit the front with 400m to go and got run out of it late. But she has got a horrible draw so will need a lot of luck.”
Johan Janse van Vuuren’s grey filly Negroamaro will always have her supporters, even though she is a chronic bleeder. He would only say, “She’s very well but is in a very strong race.”
Roy Magner, asked about Anna Pavlova, said yesterday: “She worked hard this morning and did nicely. She’s in a good place and, although she is not well drawn, I’m expecting a good run.”
Kilauea is another runner with a wide draw. She had an interrupted preparation, but David Nieuwenhuizen said: “She’s got a lot of guts and must have a chance, although it’s a strong field.”