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– Written by Mark van Deventer

(Image of ROYAL AUSSIE by Chase Liebenberg)

ROYAL AUSSIE ran out of his socks in the L’Ormarins King’s Plate when staying on third behind mile–supremo, CHARLES DICKENS. This prompted the official handicappers to bump him up to a sky-high merit rating of 124, which is way better than any of his Pongracz Jet Master Stakes rivals have managed.

After an unsuccessful subsequent foray over ground in the World Sports Betting Cape Town MET, the Justin Snaith trained entry now reverts to a more suitable 1600m distance, is given a class edge in the listed Pongracz Jet Master Stakes, and rates the No. 1 choice in Race 5.It helps that Grant van Niekerk has positional options on the son of ROYAL MO, who has run well handy or when conserved off the pace (as was the case in the King’s Plate).

BARATHEON holds the key as the possible lone speed horse. If Piet Botha’s lightly weighted, lowly drawn runner sets a true pace, then Van Niekerk may be able to slot in and use stalk and pounce tactics on ROYAL AUSSIE. If the race goes slow early then anything can happen, with positioning relative to the soft leader and ability to quicken up taking on great importance.

(Image of QUASIFORSURE by Chase Liebenberg)

QUASIFORSURE ran a close second in this race last year under controversial circumstances, which lead to Josh Solomons being censured for not riding him out fully. He looked sure to win having opened a huge lead, only to free wheel home in virtual slow motion and get mugged on the post by a surging PACAYA.

QUASIFORSURE seems sure to go well this time, and might even make amends for last year’s miscue – having sprinted up nicely behind COSMIC HIGHWAY on his Cape opener, then progressing from far back behind AT MY COMMAND at his most recent outing.

Talented four-time winner, PONTE PIETRA is interesting after a 70-day freshening. Trainer Dean Kannemeyer reports his charge is moving well and should finish the race off smartly, though this is a stepping stone for a Champions Season campaign over middle distances in KZN during the Winter. He receives 6kg from his more experienced and exposed four-year-old contemporary, ROYAL AUSSIE.

FUTURE PRINCE has been cagily placed in this contest by trainer Brett Crawford, and will come in carrying just 51.5kg. He will need to produce a career best to menace the principals, but is primed third up after a break to do just that. A literal reading of collateral form lines with QUASIFORSURE encourages hope, as he is now fully 9kg better off for a 3.75 length beating in last year’s dramatic showdown.

GOLD STANDARD filly, GOLD POKER GAME, has come to light this Summer. She weaved past the entire field to take out a Durbanville heat in November ’23, ran with credit behind SAARTJIE at level weights in the SplashOut Victress Stakes then – playing away – downed Eastern Cape champ, LUNA HALO, in the Lady’s Bracelet at Fairview 43 days ago. She gets a gender allowance, so carries 54.5kg to aid her cause in taking on the males. But, like FUTURE PRINCE, it will take a best-ever performance to scare the principals.

CAPTAIN FONTANE is a steady campaigner who has built up a fine winning record in Durban with seven victories to date. A mile is within his scope, but he could be in the grip of the handicapper these days and is, in any case, rated 14 and five points beneath level-weighted rivals, ROYAL AUSSIE and QUASIFORSURE, respectively.

The moody SOMERSET MAUGHAM has not shown much zest recently, and will need to wake up suddenly to trouble the judge. RUNAWAY SONG’s last worthwhile effort was a 2400m victory at Hollywoodbets Scottsville in June 2023, and he’s not run close to that elevated rating since.

If ROYAL AUSSIE can replicate his outstanding L’Ormarins King’s Plate run, then he will probably win. QUASIFORSURE is poised to throw out a serious challenge
together with handily weighted lurker, FUTURE PRICE, while sparingly campaigned PONTE PIETRA’s ceiling has yet to be established, and comes in as the dark horse of this race.