David Thiselton

Duncan Howells’ pair of Vodacom Durban July contenders from last year, Saratoga Dancer and Ten Gun Salute, have returned from a holiday on the farm and will be two of KZN’s chief flagbearers during the SA Champions Season.

Howells also spoke about his other Champions Season hopefuls.

Saratoga Dancer, who made critics eat their words by finishing fifth in the July, is said by Howells to be “very well, evergreen and sound”.

He will follow much the same route as last year, namely the Gr 2 IOS Drill Hall Stakes over 1400m,  the Gr 3 Cup Trial over 1800m, The July and The Champions Cup.

Ten Gun Salute, ninth in the July, might be a good horse to follow. He was gelded during his layoff and Howells said, “He had become very headstrong and difficult to hold in work, but he is now a completely different horse.”

Three-year-old Captain Al colt Secret Captain, a half-brother to the champion filly Bela-Bela, has also returned from the farm. He has always looked likely to improve as he matures. However, Howells is still not sure what his correct distance is. To date, he has disappointed every time he has been stepped up beyond 1200m. Howells will start him off over 1200m and make a decision from there.

Dawn Calling, runner up in both the Gr 2 Golden Slipper and Gr 1 Thekwini, was unlucky in the Gr 1 WSB Cape Fillies Guineas. She then finished a decent third in the Gr 3 Flamboyant Stakes, in which she was the only three-year-old. Howells said, “She is a very good filly, not as good as Same Jurisdiction, but the latter came from an exceptional crop. She will go for the Daisy Fillies Guineas and the Woolavington 2000.”

The sprinter Elusivenchantment, an Elusive Fort half-sister to Via Africa, has won five of her nine starts. She will be out in a Pinnacle Stakes event next week in preparation for the Champions Season fillies sprint features.  Howells said, “She is not as good as Via Africa and there are some very good fillies from Cape Town and Jo’burg, so she will up against it.”

Howells also trains another half-sister to Via Africa, two-year-old Swift Dancer (Oratorio), who finished second on debut over 1000m. He said, “She is a nice filly with plenty of scope to improve, she will train on. She is not very big, but will definitely win races. I don’t know how good she is yet.”

He said about two-year-old debut winner, Neptune’s Rain (Antonius Pius), “She is very promising and will be aimed at the Allan Robertson, although I’m still cautious because I don’t know how much she beat.”

Howells said Lunar Rush was a similar type to Elusivenchantment and will likely follow a similar route.

He rates the three-year-old Dynasty gelding Wild Wicket and said, “He is decent and progressive and the Guineas and Daily News will be on his agenda if he shows us he’s that quality as he has been difficult to place with his high merit rating.”

He said of the 92 merit-rated Kahal gelding Amazon King, “He steps up every time I run him. We will see if he stays a mile on Sunday and if he does he will go for the Daisy Guineas. Whatever happens he will go for the Byerley Turk (1400m).”

Howells said Sylvester The Cat’s problem was only his temperament. He had not completely written off his chances of becoming a top class horse, but said his likely aims would be races like the Listed Thukela Handicap on July day.

The Gimmethegreenlight gelding Legend will unfortunately miss the rest of his three-year-old season, but will be back as a four-year-old. His temperament suggested there had been something wrong and the problem was duly isolated. He has been sent to the farm to recuperate.

Howells said he had the best two-year-old crop on pedigree he had ever had and expected to be contesting plenty of two-year-old features.  – Gold Circle

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