Duncan Howells said he would be taking it easy this SA Champions Season with Saratoga Dancer and his Vodacom Durban July horse at this stage is the Listed Michael Roberts Handicap winner Wild Wicket.
He said about Saratoga Dancer, who finished fifth in last seasons July, He was injured in the July. A horse ran into his side and he rapped a tendon. We rested him and he has come back very well and there have been no problems. His barrier trial the other day was pretty good and I would like to keep him fresh and go for a Listed or Grade 3 race.
The rangy six-year-old Mambo In Seattle gelding won that barrier trial over 1000m on the Greyville poly by 9,5 lengths in a time of 58 seconds, despite not being asked to do a lot. The second and third-placed horses in the trial, Roys Stingray and Palmieto, both came out and won on Sunday on the Greyville turf.
Howells said about Wild Wicket, I dont know if hes good enough for the July but I have been getting the impression that the good three-year-olds are going to avoid the race. We will see if hes good enough in his preparation races.
Howells had always felt Wild Wicket was hitting the front too soon and a plan to hold him up for as long as possible in the Michael Roberts Handicap worked as he produced a late burst to just get up. However, Howells said it would have to be seen whether he could do the same against stronger horses before labelling that tactic as the key to the horse.
He continued, There is no reason not to aim him at the July, I dont think he will have a problem with the distance and the track suits him as he is a short-coupled horse. Another thing in the four-year-old geldings favour is he is by Dynasty, who won the July and whose progeny love Greyville.
Howells current big race mission is with the Captain Al filly Fiorella, whom he has entered in the Grade 1 R1 million SA Fillies Classic, to be run at Turffontein over 1800m on April 7.
She has won three races form seven starts, but is yet to be tried beyond 1600m. However, she is out of Jallad mare Arcola, who won the Grade 3 Caradoc Gold Cup over 2850m, and she is a half-sister to a Var colt who has won over 1950m. She will need to improve on her last start in February when a 2,3 length fourth over 1600m at Scottsville in a fillies and mares handicap when running off a merit rating of 90.
Howells said, She will stay all day. Our recent virus meant she has not had the ideal preparation as I would have liked her to have gone for the Gauteng Fillies Guineas first. I feel the Cape three-year-old fillies are much stronger, so I suggested going for the Grade 1 in Johannesburg to the owner. Due to her rating there is no other way really.
Howells will be aiming two of his best fillies, Neptunes Rain and Lunar Rush, at the Grade 1 SA Fillies Sprint.
He said of the former, a three-year-old by Antonius Pius who finished an unlucky third in the Grade 1 Allan Robertson last season, She will go the normal route into the SA Fillies Sprint, including the Poinsettia. She has been doing very well and is a lot more mature. She is above average, although it will be tough as there are some good sprinting fillies around, but she has done nothing wrong in her career. Neptune’s Rain showed her class last time out when giving the speedy Effortless Reward 4kg and running her to a 1,35 length third in the African Holly Handicap over 1000m. Her merit rating after the across-the-board six point raise is now 110.
Lunar Rush is merit rated 102 after her good win over 1200m at Greyville recently. Howells said, She will follow the same route as Neptunes Rain as there is nothing else for her. She is just below Grade 1 level and if she gets any black type I will be over the moon.
He will be aiming the talented Querari gelding Procal Harum at the Grade 2 Daisy Guineas. He said, He has been off due to the yard virus, but if I have him ready he will take his chances.
A filly he had high hopes for last season, Dawn Calling, won her first race for close to two years two weekends ago when cruising in by 2,25 lengths in a Pinnacle Stakes event over 1400m at Greyville. However, that win has seen her raised to only a 95 merit rating, which is a long way off the top rated fillies in the country. Howells said, It is debatable how good she is but if she proves good enough I might aim her at the Garden Province, although it will be tough against those good Cape Town horses. But I will also run her again in the KZN Breeders Mile (a R1 million race in which she finished second last year).
Others to mention are Legend, who finished second in the Listed Christmas Handicap over 1600m, and Brighteyebushytail.
However, Howell said he did not know whether Legend was good enough and revealed Brighteyebushytail had copped the worst of the virus and he was not sure whether he would have him ready in time for the Champions Season.
He added he had some strong two-year-olds, whom he hoped could make an impact in Graded features.
He took his yard out of racing for about three weeks due to the severity of the virus, where the symptoms were temperatures and coughing, but he said they were now on top of it. – Gold Circle