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Given her remarkable career accomplishments, few will be betting against Equus Horse of the Year, Princess Calla when she makes her seasonal bow in the Turf Talk Syndicate Cape A Stakes, a 1250m scuttle around one turn at Hollywoodbets Durbanville on Saturday.

Bookies go 8/1 bar one and have marked Sean Tarry’s Flower Alley six-year-old mare up at 6/10 odds on favourite.

Despite her undoubted brilliance and versatility, sceptical contrarians may try pick holes in her credentials. She has not raced at Hollywoodbets Durbanville before, though she’s won going left-handed at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth without any dramas. She comes in off a 104-day layoff, yet has a record of three wins and a second in her first run after a break. Draw 8 is tricky given the quick run in to the first corner, but she has an excellent jock in Richard Fourie who knows her, and the nuances of the track, intimately.

Whether you want to take odds on about any eventuality in horse racing, it is very much a personal gambling decision. However, you slice and dice this Princess Calla has a high probability of adding a 12th victory from just 24 starts to her already glittering resume and will be a popular banker in the Picks, she is Equus Horse Of the Year after all.

She rates nine points clear of next best weighted, Rio Querari a former champion sprinter in his prime (he won the Computaform Spring in 2021) who still sporadically throws in top-class performances. He gave Gimme a Prince a scare in the 2022 G1 Cape Flying Champs and goes well at this track.

Perhaps a livelier threat could come from bang-in form and progressive Wecangoallnight who should get a great trip from the inside alley. Eric Sands has done a sterling job handling this headstrong Gimmethegreenlight gelding who went all the way to stave off Cosmic Highway over 1400m three weeks ago. If something comes around to lead (most likely, After the Rain) and he settles properly in a stalking role on the rail, then an each-way tickle at 10/1 or better may prove a worthwhile value bet.

Countdown is another presently in sharp nick. Astute horseman, Glen Kotzen selected this Gimmethegreenlight youngster for his cheetah-like walk and that potential is being realised. Countdown has travelled up and down the coast, winning in Cape Town, Gqeberha and Durban. At the ratings, he is up against it but based on his sharp closing burst in the South Easter Sprint behind Kiss Me Captain, he could dash through for a share of the purse.

Tempting Fate was given every chance only to cave in late in that same race; Look for Hounds made respiratory noises when Wecangoallnight cleared off last time and King Regent (though talented) simply cannot afford to blow the start again and expect to contend in a sprint on a fast track against quality opposition.

Captain Fontane has a terribly stiff task carrying 60kg’s in a class where, given the weights set, must concede 1.5kg’s to the champ, Princess Calla. Yet he cannot be faulted for consistency, either winning or placing at thirteen of 17 starts. He’ll probably be outgunned here, but it makes sense to use him underneath in single race exotics.

Silver Operator is very smart on a going day. He actually beat Trip of Fortune here in the ’22 Matchem only to be demoted after an interference dispute. However, the seven-year-old will need to wake up after a dull KZN winter campaign and really prefers a tiny bit further.

That leaves After the Rain who jumps from the widest gate of all – 10. He uses extreme forcing tactics and his thoughtful trainer Gareth van Zyl wishes he could somehow ration his charges’ energy better and has engaged powerful reinsman, S’manga Khumalo to judge the fractions. The grey tends to go so hard early that he runs out of gas when challenged in deep stretch and a similar fate may again be the case.

  • Written by Mark Van Deventer

📸 @Chase Liebenberg