Al Muthana defends his crown in the Gr 1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge on Saturday, albeit for new owners and a different trainer (Picture: Wayne Marks).
Jack Milner (tab4Racing)
Charles Dickens and Al Muthana, at 132 the two highest rated runners in the country, are set to do battle again in the Grade 1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge over 1600m at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday.
The field for this R1.75-million event is potent and contains the best milers in the land.
There are three Grade 1 races over 1600m around the country that are open to all horses and the winners of the first two legs are set to line-up in this event.
Al Muthana, who won this race last year when trained by Mike de Kock, then went on under the mentorship of Ricky Maingard to claim the Grade 1 L’Ormarins King’s Plate at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth in January. In doing so, he became the first horse to lower the colours of Charles Dickens.
Trip Of Fortune was in that race but was not at his best and finished down field. However, the Candice Bass-Robinson-trained gelding made the journey to Joburg for the HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes for the second Grade 1 feature over 1600m and won it in style.
Charles Dickens has won two highly regarded races over 1600m, the Grade 1 Cape Guineas and the Grade 2 WSB Guineas. The results of both races were never in doubt and despite his surprise loss to Al Muthana, this son of Trippi, trained by Bass-Robinson, will be the runner to beat.
In fact, he has been priced up at 9-20 to notch up his first Grade 1 victory in open company. Aldo Domeyer has been given the ride once again.
Trip Of Fortune has come on in leaps and bounds since being gelded and showed his wellbeing when winning the Grade 2 Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes over 1400m last month.
Gareth Wight will take the ride this time.
Al Muthana may have found 2000m in the Cape Met a touch too far, but he has since run fourth in the Listed Jet Master Stakes over 1600m and was only 0.90 lengths back in third behind Trip Of Fortune in the Drill Hall Stakes.
The Australian-bred son of Deep Field could be peaking at the right time for the defence of his title. Grant van Niekerk has the ride.
Cousin Casey has yet to get the better of Chares Dickens, but will have the benefit of No 1 draw and S’manga Khumalo in the irons this time.
Safe Passage ran a shocker in the Drill Hall Stakes, but improved when third at Turffontein next time out and could do even better this time. This is a very strong field but De Kock’s charge cannot be underestimated.
Do It Again might be almost nine years old but in 14 runs at Greyville he has yet to finish out of the places. Richard Fourie is in pristine form currently and he takes the ride.
Also run at the meeting is the Grade 2 East Coast Radio Tibouchina Stakes for fillies and mares over 1400m.
9-20 Charles Dickens
17-2 Trip Of Fortune, Al Muthana
13-1 Cousin Casey
14-1 Rascallion, Safe Passage
18-1 Do It Again
33-1 Royal Aussie
Final field for the R1.75-million Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge (Grade 1)(For Horses at Weight-For-Age) over 1600m.
1 – 1 COUSIN CASEY (G S Kotzen) S Khumalo 58.5 – 122
2 – 2 RASCALLION (V H Marshall) C Orffer 60.0 – 122
3 – 3 TRIP OF FORTUNE (C Bass-Robinson) G Wright 60.0 – 127
4 – 4 CHARLES DICKENS (C Bass-Robinson) A Domeyer 58.5 – 132
5 – 5 AL MUTHANA (R Maingard) G van Niekerk 60.0 – 132
6 – 6 SAFE PASSAGE (M F De Kock) C Zackey 60.0 – 124
7 – 7 ROYAL AUSSIE (J S Snaith) J P v’d Merwe 58.5 – 116
8 – 8 BINGWA (J J van Vuuren) G Lerena 60.0 – 122
9 – 9 DO IT AGAIN (J S Snaith) R Fourie 60.0 – 124
10 – 10 ZAPATILLAS (B Crawford) L Mxothwa 60.0 – 122
Same Trainer: (3,4) (7,9)