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Some say the WSB Cape Town Met has lost a bit of its lustre in recent years but the glint in Candice Bass-Robinson’s eyes tells you that the famous race is still one that everyone wants to win, writes Gary Lemke.

Her Milnerton-based stable has already churned out 51 winners so far this season, but nothing beats the thrill of securing a Grade One. And then there are “Grade Ones” and the “major Grade Ones”. The Met slots into the latter category.

Bass-Robinson sends out the only filly in the race, Marina, and for those who are looking for comfort after taking ante-post odds of 12-1 about her, the trainer has plenty of it.

“She came out of the Paddock Stakes three weeks ago very well. She’s been working really well and I couldn’t be happier with her work or her well-being. Aldo (Domeyer) is also very happy with her and she’s given me a lot of confidence heading into the race. I think she’ll be a really lively runner.”

Fillies have a good recent record in the Met, with Oh Susanna winning in 2018 and before that all of Smart Call (2016), Igugu (2012) and River Jetez (2010) triumphing for the fairer sex.

River Jetez won in the year that the Bass stable sent out three of the first four runners past the post, while the runner-up Mother Russia, was also a filly  from the Mike de Kock yard.

“To be honest, this is the first time in a while that I’m really excited about the Met,”
Bass-Robinson said.

“Marina has given me that ‘Met’ feeling again. In the recent past I’ve had runners in the race, but this is the first time since the River Jetez and Pocket Power days that I have felt ‘it’ in the build-up.”

Bass-Robinson became the first lady trainer to win the Durban July, with Marinaresco in 2017, and here the full sister to that history-maker would see her become the first lady to win the Met as well.

“Obviously Michelle (Rix) is thinking the same thing. She won the July last year with
Kommetdieding and he’s joint favourite for the Met so there’s alot of respect for her!

“Going into these big races everything has to go right – and so much can go wrong, with a hiccup here and there. But I can honestly say that I couldn’t have Marina in a better place.

“She was flying at the finish when less than a half-length behind Captain’s Ransom and Chansonette in the Paddock Stakes on Queen’s Plate Day, but that was over 1800m.

“She takes a bit of time to unwind over that distance and here she’s over 2000m. The 2000, 2200 and 2400m trips are her optimum distances.”

Like every trainer, owner, jockey and punter, Bass-Robinson has played out the race in her mind, over and over again.

“Looking at the field I don’t think there’ll be a hot pace. Everyone is saying Rockin’ Ringo will go to the front, but I think it will be a nice, comfortable pace. I think everyone would want the same thing.

“There’s always so much talk about the ‘Cape crawl’ and you never know with Cape racing, but I certainly wouldn’t want that for Marina where they canter and then sprint. What will suit her is a nice even pace and then she can unwind from off that.”

Saying such is not giving away any trade secrets. Such is the manner in which she races, it’s likely you’ll find Marina nearer the back than the front as they turn from home.

“You need luck in running, for sure, but she’ll be coming at them!”

Bass-Robinson has always felt that Marina would be her ‘Met filly’.

“It might sound like the benefit of hindsight but I can assure you it’s not. When Aldo got off her after winning a MR 76 handicap over 1950m at Kenilworth in November 2020, I said ‘this is our Met horse for next year’.

“It was only her third race and her second win, but I knew that she was something special.
I also firmly believe we haven’t seen the very best of her and that this year we will.

“She’s carrying 57kg at weight for age terms and gets 3kg from the likes of Kommetdieding and Do It Again, but she’s a big filly and carries the weight easily, so I’m not concerned about that at all.”

While there’s pressure and butterflies – the trick is to get those butterflies flying in formation – Bass-Robinson believes that with crowds back and people on the course following the Covid-19 restrictions, there’s a bit of magic about this year’s Met once again.

“The pressure is intense but that’s what makes it awesome. I’m confident of a big run!”