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A full field will go to the gates in the Ridgemont Peninsula Handicap, a Grade 3 over 1800m. As is typically the case in handicaps, the contention is spread widely, and early quotes see bookies go 5/1 the field. Let’s sneak a peek at all 16 entries.

PONTE PIETRA is an improving, lightly campaigned four-year-old gelding that has won four of nine starts. His last effort was a career best to date when darting home from far back behind the reopposing, SACHDEV. He is handily weighted near the bottom of the scale carrying 53,5kg’s. This race will reveal how he stacks up against exposed, accomplished rivals. If he runs boldly, then he might even become a long-range Durban July prospect, coming in as an older horse with a light weight for next year.

PONTE PIETRA is better off at the weights with SACHDEV and SUGAR MOUNTAIN too, who finished 1.25 lengths ahead of him on that occasion but is now 1.5kg’s worse off. Those are fine margins and proven winner, SUGAR MOUNTAIN, victorious in seven races from 19 starts, is a big player.

ROCKPOOL was in that same mid-November race at Hollywoodbets Durbanville won by SACHDEV, where he caved in late to get beat 2.5 lengths. He will strip fitter now, goes great guns for Richard Fourie, and his two best races have come over this course and distance (including a level weight defeat of G1 placed Snaith trained companion, WITHOUT QUESTION.)

WATERBERRY LANE is drawn next to ROCKPOOL at 5. He is allotted top weight of 61.5kg’s as an established Grade 1 contestant. In January 2023 he ran 2.3 lengths off JET DARK in the World Sports Betting Cape Town MET, and was placed in the G1 Daily News behind SAFE PASSAGE the year before.

SENSO UNICO must also lumber 60.5kg’s. He is best around this trip, though he has also tried longer tests of endurance. Vaughan Marshall’s runner can be lauded for gameness and is fit/in-form, but it’s unlikely that he is all of seven lengths better than PONTE PIETRA.

More dangerous opposition to Dean Kannemeyer’s upwardly mobile Vercingetorix gelding could include Snaith Racing entries, PACAYA, FUTURE SWING and perhaps, TRIPLE TIME.

PACAYA was a strong winner of the Hollywoodbets Greyville 1900, and though subsequent runs have been well below that level (with legit excuses) he still merits respect on peak efforts. FUTURE SWING strolled to a dominant Algoa Cup win in early November, is in career best form and carries a kilogram less than PONTE PIETRA which makes him a major player. TRIPLE TIME can be a bit in and out, yet would have a shake on several lines of collateral form.

Others in the field include:

  • GEM KING who was top notch in this distance range at three, yet has been testing trainer Piet Steyn’s horsemanship due to persistent soundness issues;
  • MONEY HEIST, a middleweight with a similar chance to SENSO UNICO on their October clash;
  • Andre Nel’s stayer, MASTER REDOUTE, who runs some solid races yet has not won for 760 days;
  • NEBRAAS, another marathon runner who gamely placed in the Gold Cup off a higher OMR, but may find this shorter route and a wide draw of 14 unsuitable. His recent form is also uninspiring.
  • Finally, DECORATED comes back after 504 days rehab to compete off his highest ever OMR, which is a daunting task.

The speed map for this race suggests that only BARATHEON (arguably better using those tactics at Hollywoodbets Durbanville) and Otto Luyken might lead. The prospect of an at best steady, maybe even slow run race must be considered despite the big field. That places a premium on optimal positioning, jockeys deftly timing their finishing bursts and the ability to quicken.

This is a tough contest to predict given the handicap terms and vagaries of the pace. That said, PONTE PIETRA has been manoeuvred into what looks the right race at this stage of his physical development. Craig Zackey’s mount has a lot in his favour so is advised each way at odds of 5/1 or better. Exacta players may surround him with main rivals – SUGAR MOUNTAIN, ROCKPOOL, FUTURE SWING and throw in 20/1 shot, PACAYA on back form, as well.