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His supporters need confidence that he can win the Durban July

David Mollett  (Business Day)

So here is the intriguing question concerning Saturday’s grade 1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge at Greyville — how close to Jet Dark does Linebacker have to finish to give his supporters confidence that he can win the Durban July?

Saturday’s race is 1,600m and the last time these two horses met over this distance was in the Queen’s Plate in January. Jet Dark came out on top by four lengths.

A similar distance at the conclusion of Saturday’s race is unlikely to be acceptable to Linebacker’s many fans, nor to his trainer Vaughan Marshall. He needs to get a lot closer to the Justin Snaith star to prove his no-show in the Drill Hall Stakes was due to him being ring-rusty.

Jet Dark did finish sixth from the worst draw in the Drill Hall — a promising comeback effort and it’s hard to see pundits selecting another horse to win Saturday’s R781,250 first prize.

To the best of this writer’s knowledge — now confined to barracks with Covid-19 — no decision has been made on Jet Dark’s July participation. One has to remember, the colt would carry top weight on July 2.

Even so, Snaith proved with Captain’s Ransom last weekend that he is up for a challenge and no doubt owners Tommy Crowe and Nic Jonsson will be guided by the champion trainer.

Is there any chance of victory going to a member of the supporting cast? Not likely, though Al Muthana — arguably the best-bred horse in the field — was bidding for a fourth consecutive win when he lined up for the Horse Chestnut Stakes.

Then — as was the case with the Charity Mile — he failed to deliver and was beaten over five lengths by MK’s Pride.

Al Muthana has been ridden by five different jockeys in his career (including Piere Strydom), but this is the first time Richard Fourie has been in the saddle. 

Muzi Yeni has the worst of the draw on MK’s Pride and perhaps well-drawn Silver Operator — winner of the Drill Hall — will earn another cheque for his connections.

In the supporting feature, the Tibouchina Stakes, that Aldo Domeyer is on Zarina is a pointer to her good chance. 

Adam and Mike Azzie will have jumped for joy when they saw Sweet Future has drawn pole position. Marina could finish in the first three too..

Many of us are still licking our wounds with the no-show of Prophet last weekend, but trainer Corné Spies will put that behind him and concentrate on Supreme Quest throwing down a challenge over the final 200m.

Zarina, Sweet Future, Marina and Supreme Quest need to be included in everything. 

Master Archie is sure to be all the rage for the Durban Dash — the eighth race on the card — but don’t rule out a big run from Ambiorix on what is a crucial day for his talented conditioner, Vaughan Marshall.


Gold Challenge

1 (9) Jet Dark

2 (7) Linebacker

3 (5) Al Muthana

4 (3) Silver Operator

Tibouchina Stakes 

1 (10) Zarina

2 (1) Sweet Future

3 (6) Marina

4 (8) Supreme Quest

Durban Dash

1 (8) Ambiorix

2 (6) Master Archie

3 (2) Coin Spinner

4 (7) Barzalona

Cup Trial

1 (1) Warrior

2 (3) Gainsford

3 (12) Firealley

4 (7) Mount Anderson

Jubilee Stakes

(Turffontein, Sunday)

1 (1) Puerto Manzano

2 (7) Naval Guard

3 (10) Perfect Witness

4 (4) Golden Pheasant

Picture: Linebacker (Wayne Marks).