irish flame
irish flame

Irish Flame

(Photo : Gold Circle) 



There has been a lot of talk about the class of this season’s three-year-old crop of colts with many expressing the opinion that they are the best we have seen in a long time.

Jack Milner writes that the three-year-olds have certainly done little wrong with many of the Graded races, especially the handicaps, going the way of the younger set.

Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July over 2200m at Greyville will finally reveal the answer as no fewer than eight three-year-olds will line up for this R3 million race. This year the race is almost a true handicap and as such is not an easy puzzle to unravel.

However, the good news for Pick 6 punters, who will be hoping to win a share in the carryover of R423,993 and an estimated pool of R5 million, is that Mike de Kock saddles seven runners and Mike Bass four. So for just two horses, one will get 11 of the 20 runners, most of whom are high up in the betting.

When Eyeofthetiger won this race in 2006, he carried 54kg - the heaviest weight carried to victory by any three-year-old. This year all of Irish Flame, Bold Silvano, Orbison, Ancestral Fore and Happy Valley will have between 54kg and 56kg on their backs and with the top weight still set at 60kg, some pundits believe it will be beyond them.

I disagree and believe the three-year-olds will dominate this race - and no horse has performed better during this KwaZulu-Natal season than Irish Flame.

He joined Mike de Kock’s yard after the Cape season. After running third to Pierre Jourdan in the SA Classic (Gr1) and finishing unplaced to Regal Ransom in a Pinnacle Stakes over 1600m, he went on to win the SA Derby (Gr1) in heavy going at Turffontein, the Daily News 2000 (Gr1) at Greyville and the Gold Circle Derby (Gr2) at Clairwood.

In reality he has only raced in three-year-old company and has not really been exposed to older horses. That is of little concern to De Kock. “Horses like Bold Silvano and Happy Valley have raced in open company which brings the collateral form into play. Both have beaten the older horses and Irish Flame has beaten both of them.”

The son of 2003 champion Dynasty won the SA Derby by 9.50 lengths but took the Daily News 2000 by a neck from Bold Silvano, who is now 0.5kg better off.

“I thought the Daily News win was far more impressive than the Derby win,” said De Kock. “I thought 2000m at Greyville would be too sharp but he jumped out, was up with the pace and quickened away at the top of the straight. Bold Silvano ran at him at 100 miles per hour and in fact never looked able to pass him.”

“He doesn’t show you at home what he brings to the track and this is an extra 200m will be right up his alley.”

The Daily News run does bring Bold Silvano very close to Irish Flame, but he must be slightly suspect over the 2200m. “Bold Silvano is very comfortable up to 10 furlongs (2000m). He’s a classic World Cup horse and that is why I’m taking him to Dubai,” said De Kock.

He also pointed out that jockey Anthony Delpech will not get too far behind this time. “We’ve been riding him from behind because that’s the way he won the Betting World 1900 at Greyville. We’re not going to give his No 2 draw away and he’s going to be closer to the front. He’s got to be ridden confidently.”

The pace has also been discussed and many experts predict that De Kock will be looking for a fast pace. However, that does not appear to be the case. “A fast pace will suit Irish Flame and Ancestral Fore. A slow pace will suit Bold Silvano. The race must unfold the way it does,” said De Kock.

Mike Bass wants a quick pace for his runners. They include 2008 winner Pocket Power, who dead-heated with Dancer’s Daughter. Pocket Power is stuck at draw No 17 and a fast-run race will help jockey Bernard Fayd’Herbe overcome that hurdle.

“If he was drawn well I would be very confident, he would have a big shout. But if he turns for home four of five lengths back, I will still quite confident,” said Bass.

“Pocket Power can quicken with anybody. It just depends on the pace. If there’s a good pace I have no concern about him quickening. Last year it was slow, he didn’t get out that well and he was stuck at the back of the field. Hopefully this year the pace will be decent.”

Although he will be turning eight the day after the Durban July, Pocket Power is a champion and it would be foolhardy to write him off. “It’s just a matter of his state of fitness as the season goes on,” explained Bass. “I don’t hammer him at the beginning of the season and he builds himself up. This year I thought his third run would be his best run but hopefully it will be his fourth.”

Bass has two another weapons in his arsenal in the form of J&B Met winner River Jetez and fourth-placed Fort Vogue while De Kock also saddles Gold Cup winner Ancestral Fore, the much-improved Happy Valley and Lizarre, all of whom have claims to wear the winner’s sash. 

But it could be Herman Brown’s three-year-old Orbison who fills the minor placing. He won the Champions Cup (Gr1) over 1800m at Clairwood, beating many of the rivals he meets in this race. If taken in isolation that run would make him very hard to beat, but the conditions suited Orbison on that occasion and his task may not be so easy this time.

However, the Mogok gelding has a magnificent turn of foot and can run with them or come from off them, all of which will make life easier for jockey Raymond Danielson to overcome No 16 draw.

Extract from Racing Express