The Peter Muscutt-trained Battle Force will be tested beyond his established comfort zone when he takes on 7 rivals in the R600 000 KwaZulu-Natal Breeders Mile over 1600m at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Sunday.
Battle Force, winner of the Golden Horse Sprint (Gr 1) last year, has recorded all 7 of his victories to date over 1200m. But, that being said, he has previously finished second in his only two starts over 1400m. The first of these was back in December 2020 when runner-up to Hollywoodbets Durban July candidate Flying Carpet and then back in May last year Battle Force finished second behind the useful Expressfromtheus. Now that he is rising five years of age, Battle Force may well be able to stretch his winning form to 1600 metres and is fancied to confirm his status as the best handicapped horse in the race. Interestingly Peter Muscutt has taken the blinkers off Battle Force and this could prove to be the master stroke.
Justin Snaith has shipped Nexus from the Western Cape to take his chances here on Sunday but the Dynasty gelding has been struggling to find his best form. Without a win for just about 18 months, Nexus’ recent performances have been patchy but he did finish 2nd in the Cup Trial last Season and at best would pose a real threat to Battle Force.
Chijmes was second in this race last year but his subsequent efforts have generally been below par. He was last seen in the King’s Cup back in April when finishing downfield behind Cat Daddy but he could come back fresh after the short rest and make his presence felt.
Willow Express, a handsome grey son of Willow Magic, and the 3yo filly Bold Act make some appeal. Trained by Sean Tarry, Willow Magic has been a model of consistency and was seen to good advantage when beating the talented Bingwa over 1500m back in May. Admittedly he was in receipt of 8 kgs but if Battle Force does not get the trip then the KZN Breeders Mile is up for grabs.
Bold Act, from the powerful Mike de Kock stable, was fourth in the recent Tibouchina Stakes over 1400m and back in April was third behind Supreme Quest over the same trip in the Umzimkhulu Stakes. She is also not certain to stay the extra 200m but could earn a minor place cheque.
Artic Tune, Flashy Apache and King’s Crusade make up the numbers but it would come as something of a surprise if they were to trouble the principals.
THE PICK 6:
All races on the day are restricted to horses bred in KwaZulu Natal and, the main race apart, all are being contested on the Polytrack. One of the better bets on the card looks to be Winter Smoke in the 3rd race, the opening leg of the Pick 6. Trained by Ashley Fortune the 4yo daughter of What a Winter is rated to win by a country mile and she has a prior victory on the surface to her credit. Consistency has not always been a virtue of Winter Smoke and she fluffed her lines badly in the same race last year when a short-priced favourite. But on the strength of her recent form, she should pack too many guns for her eight rivals on Sunday.
Hooves of Troy has been without a win for 3 years but the former Eastern Cape star has plummeted down the ratings and he could end his winless drought by securing top honours in Race 4. He probably has most to fear from course specialist Ad Altisima and the in-form Proud Master but with a good draw and just 51 kgs to shoulder Hooves of Troy makes good each-way appeal.
Race 5 over 1900m has a very open appearance with most of the field having winning chances. But the best of them could be the Sean Tarry-trained Have A Go Jo who won this very race last year and carries 2kgs less this time around. Ignore his last run over 2400m as the trip seemed a little beyond his range and he should go much better on Sunday. Traditionally, Sean Tarry has done remarkably well on KZN Breeders’ Race Day and he is raiding Sunday’s race meeting with as many as ten runners.
Another to keep an eye on is Prince of Taranto in Race 6. He was badly interfered with in his last start over 1400m when finishing fourth and has previously shown his liking for the Polytrack surface. From the best of the draw, a low weight and Muzi Yeni in the irons, Prince of Taranto appears to set the standard.
The 8th and final race for fillies and mares over 1600m can possibly be narrowed to three principal runners – Capetown Beauty; Wishful Girl Linn and Admire Me. The latter is unbeaten on the Polytrack but both Capetown Beauty and Wishful Girl Linn have prolific form on the surface and a weight advantage over Admire Me.
-Graeme Hawkins / Gold Circle