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– Written by Mark van Deventer

the 2023 L’Ormarins King’s Plate (WFA), AL MUTHANA caused a serious boil over when stunning 2/9 favourite CHARLES DICKENS, under a superb steer by Bernard Fayd Herbe. These top-class milers will tangle once again in this year’s renewal, carded as Race 7, at 16h10 at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth.

(Image of AL MUTHANA by Chase Liebenberg)

Add middle distance star, SEE IT AGAIN, who sports the same 132 OMR as CHARLES DICKENS and can go some over 1600m, and it is shaping up to be an epic Grade 1 tussle.

These three runners tower over their opposition on pure ability, but they all come with “wealth warnings.” AL MUTHANA has run sterlingly in defeat in the Drill Hall Stakes and Gold Challenge, yet remains without a victory since that L’Ormarins King’s Plate stunner. He is drawn out wide at 12 and comes in off a well-beaten 7th place finish in the World Sports Betting Green Point Stakes won by SEE IT AGAIN. The market seems to be taking an especially dim view (again!) of his chances with early quotes as big of 33/1.

(Image of CHARLES DICKENS by Chase Liebenberg)

For all his undoubted brilliance, CHARLES DICKENS is a quirky individual that is difficult to train and ride. It’s amazing that he’s won nine of 12 high-level starts despite often not settling properly, then hanging badly in the closing stages. Notwithstanding those quibbles, bookies are justifiably wary of this brilliant equine star – he is on offer at 13/10.

SEE IT AGAIN needs a test of stamina to show his real worth. His considerable class is enabling him to win over shorter distances, and the even money favourite will require a hot early tempo to be seen to best effect. Whether he gets the right pace set up is hard to predict, making those skinny, even money offers unappealing.

(Image of SEE IT AGAIN by Chase Liebenberg)

Perhaps long-striding lurker, MONTIEN, pace-pressing SNOW PILOT and free-running but poorly drawn ROYAL AUSSIE will try get across and contest the lead to ensure a true run King’s Plate?

33/1 longshot, DOUBLE SUPERLATIVE is a dark horse. He won the ’21 Cape Guineas and ran with distinction at his next start when fourth behind KOMMETDIEDING in the ’22 MET. A subsequent tendon injury set him back big time, and it remains to be seen if he will ever regain the exceptional talent he flashed as a three-year-old when he was awarded a merit rating of 125. In his last sprint behind reopposing COSMIC HIGHWAY, he kicked on from dead last to finish midfield two lengths back, so he comes into the race with good heart.

For his part, COSMIC HIGHWAY is not the worst 66/1 shot you will find. He has hit form again after being gelded and returned home, winning the G2 Cape Merchants with a decisive burst a month ago. At three he ran close in the Concorde Cup and Cape Guineas (when DOUBLE SUPERLATIVE proved a couple of lengths superior over the distance), and he should get the run of the race from the inside alley.

Other than SNOW PILOT, who won the Cape Guineas three weeks ago with a perfect trip, the only other three-year-old is HLUHLUWE. He finished two lengths behind in that classic, having defeated his Justin Snaith trained stable mate by half a length at their penultimate clash when finishing much the better of the two. They are given equivalent probabilities with both offered at 16/1 in ante-post calls.

Of the remainder, SPEED MACHINE is a mudlark who won’t get his preferred ground in mid-summer; KING REGENT could be best as a sprinter, and the same can be said of his Glen Kotzen-trained stable companion, COUNTDOWN, while ANFIELDS ROCKET finished around half a dozen lengths off CHARLES DICKENS and SEE IT AGAIN in Durban Graded features, so seems comfortably held.

In summary, the magical miler with an awesome turn of foot, CHARLES DICKENS is marginally preferred over high-class, SEE IT AGAIN for the win in this historic G1, but neither appeal as betting propositions at such skimpy odds. They can probably be used to lock up the Leg by exotic bettors in Jackpots and P6’s, though.

Bigger priced each way alternatives for contrarian, spec bettors include live longshot, COSMIC HIGHWAY, under-rated defending champ, AL MUTHANA and mystery horse, DOUBLE SUPERLATIVE.


Images by Chase Liebenberg