Timeform preview the Gauteng Guineas, the first leg of the South African Triple Crown this Saturday.
"He’s never raced over a mile, but both his breeding and the way he shaped last time would suggest that the step up to a mile won’t pose Francois Bernardus any problems."
Don't be fooled by its place in the pattern (Grade 2), The Gauteng Guineas at Turffontein holds just as much prestige in South Africa as the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket does in Britain and it produces horses that graduate to taking on the best in the world. The nation's most famous trainer, Mike de Kock, clearly places plenty of stock in the race, winning it in three of the last five years with the likes of Dubai Duty Free third Imbongi.
De Kock has three runners in this year's renewal. His best hope would appear to lie with Alexandra Palace, winner of the listed Sea Cottage Stakes over nine furlongs last time on just his third career start. He's duly the choice of Anthony Delpech and is currently second-favourite for the Guineas. De Kock's other two, Emerald Approach and lucky reserve Cannon, both need to improve.
The highest-rated horse in the race and narrow favourite ahead of Alexandra Palace is Francois Bernardus. Trained by Tyrone Zackey, he is unbeaten for current connections, clocking a good time when winning over six furlongs at the Vaal on his latest start. He's never raced over a mile, but both his breeding and the way he shaped last time would suggest that the step up to a mile won't pose Francois Bernardus any problems. He sets a high standard for Alexandra Palace et al to reach.
The top three on the racecard look to provide among the sternest competition. Admittedly, both War Horse and Fantastic Mr Fox have wide draws to overcome, but the latter will be ridden for a late run, anyway, while War Horse has a win at a higher level to his name already, taking the Golden Horseshoe on Durban July day last year. The other member of the trio, Love Struck, has the assistance of champion jockey Anton Marcus and comes here instead of the Cape Derby. His form has a solid look to it and there's every reason to think he'll run a sound race.
Although the R1Million Guineas is the feature race of the day, there are several other good-quality races on the Turffontein card. The Gauteng Fillies' Guineas, also a Grade 2, is the first leg of the fillies' Triple Tiara and looks far more one-sided in terms of betting: Mike de Kock's unbeaten Espumanti, a British-bred, looks set to go off a warm order despite being withdrawn from her would-be prep race a few weeks ago due to a respiratory disease. Her trainer's faith has obviously been enough to assuage punters' fears.
The undercard also features the R300k Grade 2 Hawaii Stakes over seven furlongs, as well as the Grade 3 Acacia Handicap over a mile and the Listed Aquanaut Handicap over and extended one-and-a-half miles.
The 10-race card at Turffontein gets underway at 10:00 British time on Saturday, with the Gauteng Guineas race at 14:20.