Skip to main content

Trainer Candice Bass-Robinson and Charles Dickens (Wayne Marks).

Bookmakers have slashed Charles Dickens to odds-on for the Hollywoodbets Cape Guineas

Mike Moon (The Citizen)

As good as Sea Cottage and Horse Chestnut? That is hallowed turf that pundits are venturing onto in their assessment of a young horse called Charles Dickens.
These are not racetrack BS artists, but respected people who know the game inside out – like Charles Faull, who described Charles Dickens’s victory in a strong Allowance Plate at Kenilworth last Sunday as “Sea Cottage stuff”.
Watch a replay of the race and you’ll get what the fuss is about.

After winning his first four races in a row – increasingly easily – trainer Candice Bass-Robinson’s three-year-old colt was a 1-2 shot to get the better of some useful older horses, even giving them up to 9kg in weight advantage.

In the end, the son of Trippi made the odds look a bargain.

When the field departed the 1400m pole, jockey Aldo Domeyer showed no urgency, allowing the chestnut to amble along behind his six rivals – who included former Cape Guineas champ Russian Rock and four-time winner Captain Of Stealth.

As the field straightened off the left-hand turn, Domeyer flicked the reins once, the horse lengthened his stride and onlookers had breaths removed.

The toiling bunch looked like palookas. The colt was never off the bit and was eased down in the final 150m, winning by 3.25 lengths – and it could have been double that if he’d been asked to exert himself.

As good as the legends of yesteryear? Having seen many an early prediction of “greatness” over 50-plus years, I would reserve judgement for a moment. But he is smart.

One notable dissenting voice amongst all the adulation was that of Karel Miedema, the shrewd proprietor of racing site Sporting Post, who said: “Here we go again … Sea Cottage. Really? Let’s get a benchmark – put a number on it – what rating did he run to, so that we can have some realism, instead of babble?”

Well-known horse owner Peter de Beyer rose to Miedema’s challenge: “I [was] expecting this horse to run a good prep but at the weights to get beaten by Russian Rock and FiftyFiver. He blew them away…

“The lowest rating I can get to using Winchester Mansion as a line is 123. However, using any of the other top five finishers gets above 130. I have Charles Dickens now at 135, given the ease of his victory.

“In international terms I reckon he is around 120 Time Form equivalent…”

Cape Guineas

The upshot of all the excitement is that interest in the Hollywoodbets Cape Guineas at Kenilworth in three weeks’ time is sky high. Bookmakers have slashed Charles Dickens to 6-10 for the classic – and to 3-1 favouritism for the subsequent L’Ormarins King’s Plate early in the new year.

Consider that in-form, two-time winner of the latter race Jet Dark has been bumped out to 33-10, wildly popular Kommerdieding to 4-1 and Equus Horse of the Year Captain’s Ransom to 7-1 and you’ll appreciate the level of buzz about the callow youth from the paddocks of Drakenstein.

In terms of the Guineas, aficionados are relishing the prospect of Charles Dickens meeting Cousin Casey, another precocious Cape Town kid who was an impressive winner of the Golden Horseshoe, the Premier’s Champion Stakes and the recent Punters Cup on his way to five wins on the trot.

Hard, sober heads point out that trainer Glen Kotzen’s charge has posted his record at a much higher level and will provide Bass-Robinson’s wunderkind with a true test.

Actually, so might whichever three-year-old Mike de Kock raids with from the Highveld. On Saturday, the master trainer registered a first, second and third in the 1400m Jonsson Workwear Dingaans at Turffontein – with Union Square, Shoemaker and East Coast.

The word is that Shoemaker will be chosen to travel. The highly regarded son of Gimmethegreenlight had a rough passage in the Dingaans and is a lot better than a runner-up position might suggest.

Even Sea Cottage and Horse Chestnut would be getting a bit excited by the prospects.