EXOTIC horseplayers will be banging their heads in frustration at the Storm Bird Stakes and the Listed Ruffian Stakes at Turffontein Saturday – two open Listed races for two-year-olds on an exciting “Day Of Speed” that includes a handful of features down the straight.

Trainer Corne Spies could provide some help.  Known for his success with sprinting two-year-olds, Corne often points to his stable’s good strike rate over all distances, but he and dad Tobie have been lining up their two-year-olds to win these kind of juvenile features for many seasons and they again hold the key to both the Listed contests.

Spies saddles three colts and a pair of fillies in the Storm Bird Stakes over 1000m including Van Halen (headline photo), a son of Oratorio who was all the rage on a smart winning debut but was found wanting when beaten into second by Robbie Sage’s William The Silent second time round.

Van Halen is up against the Sage runner again (as well as a Sage first-timer called Dewali rumoured to be a speedball), though Spies feels his runner can turn the tables and said: “Van Halen is better than his last run and he is the marginal stable elect here. He’s a talented colt, he should run a big race and we were lucky to have a horse good enough for Anton Marcus to ride.”

Interestingly, Van Halen is a son of Oratorio (Danehill), from Rock Concert (Lecture), the full sister to Spies’ erstwhile Gr1-winning star Rock Opera, who was exported to Dubai and produced the world-class miler Heavy Metal, a 14-time winner and one of the favourites in Saturday’s Burj Nahaar at Meydan.

“Van Halen was purposefully bred along Heavy Metal’s Danehill x Lecture cross and we’re hoping he can go on with things, but this looks like a power field and it won’t be easy. Any of a number of runners can win it.”

Spies said about Callan Murray’s mount Rule The Night:  “He’s not far off Van Halen. He was dumb and ran across the track on his winning debut, his owner Braam Van Huyssteen compares him to the former rugby player David Campese. He has ability, too, he can run.”

Cyber Special, he said, was not in the league of Van Halen and Rule The Night, but had a Quartet chance.

Spies entered the fillies Mazari and Miss Boomerang in the colt’s race to get a little weight off as two-time winners; and they won’t be disgraced.

“Mazari beat Alec Laird’s Frankel filly in February; Miss Boomerang was behind them.  They’re both talented sorts who should get a blow in.”

Mathew de Kock, who saddles newcomer Dagmar, said:  “He was supposed to run at yesterday’s abandoned Vaal meeting. I’ve only raced one juvenile so we don’t have many lines to go on, but Dagmar is a nice speedy sort, he should be competitive.”

Adam Azzie sends out Heavenly Risk, one, he says, looks precocious, shows pace and should have a say in the finish.

It’s Van Halen or field, Van Halen or bust, but perhaps the Spies runner Miss Khalifa is one punters can banker with more confidence in the Ruffian Stakes. 

“She is the best of three in the Ruffian, a good sort who won in a good time first time out.  I rate Miss Khalifa better than Mazari, who is the colts’ race and beat Free and Easy by a few lengths when they met in February.”

In this race, Adam Azzie said about Princess Blitz: “She’s not as precocious as our colt in the Storm Bird Stakes; she looks progressive however and has enough pace to be involved.”

-From Turf Talk Newsletter

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