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Picture: Hoedspruit (Pauline Herman Photography)


Danie Toerien (The Citizen)

Six-time winner Hoedspruit will be making his Highveld debut on Saturday in the Grade 2 Topbet Mike O’Connor Joburg Spring Challenge, where he will have to answer two very important questions.

The first is whether he will take to the Turffontein Inside track, and the second is whether he will cope with the altitude.

Trained by Justin Snaith, Hoedspruit is already a Group 2 and Group 3 winner, and with a merit rating of 116, there is no question about his class.

“Hoedspruit is with Mike de Kock. He’s been up on the Highveld for about a month and a half,” said Jonathan Snaith on behalf of Snaith racing when asked whether this son of Legislate had acclimatised and adapted to the altitude.

“But you never know. Some horses adapt better than others and we are hoping he’s one of them, but you never know until they run how they will take to the altitude.”

According to Jonathan, their expectations are rather conservative.

“This is just a prep run for the Summer Cup,” he said. “He’s about 80% ready at this stage, so it’s just a prep.

“If he runs in the money we’ll be delighted.”

Hoedspruit has, however, surprised in a prep run before.

At the beginning of last season, he surprisingly won a prep run at Durbanville over 1250m, beating a small but strong field which included the likes of Zapatillas, No Laying Up and stable companion African Rain, while going off at 7-1. That run was ahead of the Listed Algoa Cup at Fairview in Gqeberha, where Hoedspruit beat Find Me Unafraid by 2.50-lengths.

“It was a very good field that day,” said Jonathan about the Durbanville run.

“This time, it’s important to note that he hasn’t been on the grass yet. He should be a run short of his best, and it’s just to give him an opportunity to get used to the altitude and the new surroundings.

“He’s not raced at Turffontein. The plan is that he races in the Summer Cup after this and then return to Cape Town for the Cape Summer Season.”

Saturday’s 1450m seems the perfect distance for Hoedspruit to spring another surprise.

“He’s got a lot of speed,” said Jonathan. “We want to start him over a shorter distance because he has to acclimatise further. The shorter the distance to start off with, the better, and then we can build from there.

“We don’t want to put him under too much pressure too early, because that increases the chances of something going wrong, especially if they’re not 100% fit yet.”

Hoedspruit does top the Computaform speed ratings in Saturday’s field.

Asked what the riding instructions for jockey Craig Zackey on Saturday could entail, Jonathan responded: “Just ride him confidently, and most importantly just sit on him. Because he’s coming off a break and it’s his first run in Johannesburg, we don’t want him to go too hard too early. He should get a relaxed early ride and the rider should make sure he’s covered off the pace. Hopefully he runs on strongly, which will set him up for a good performance in the Summer Cup.”

Jonathan also had some advice for the betting public.

“Punters out there have to be wary of horses from Cape Town having their first run in Johannesburg. Historically they don’t run to form first time out.

“I would be surprised if he won, but I wouldn’t be shocked. He’s a good horse. He’s got the class to win.”

Hoedspruit was 12-1 in early betting on Wednesday.

Full betting: 16-10 William Robertson; 4-1 Mercantour; 11-2 Puerto Manzano; 8-1 Sovereign Spirit; 9-1 After The Rain; 12-1 Hoedspruit, Forever Mine; 15-1 Bingwa, Team Gold; 22-1 Prince Of Fire; 40-1 Zillzaal.