The L’Ormarins Queens Plate Racing Festival takes place at Kenilworth this coming Friday and Saturday, with Brett Crawford represented by nineteen runners. Both cards are full of Graded feature races attracting high quality thoroughbreds, complimented by a refined on- course atmosphere of classical elegance. Proven Group 1 winners, Captain America and Sail South are flying the stable flag in Saturday’s historic test for champion milers, the Queen’s Plate.
Friday’s program includes the Grade 2 Cartier Sceptre Stakes over 1200m and the Listed Jamaica Handicap over 2000m.Quick Brown Fox is second Reserve for the sprint, so will need some luck to get in. Brett has declared her in blinkers after she dozed off in the starting stalls last time, and she now reverts to the course and distance where she has won both times.
Baroness Mary sneaks in with the low mass of 52kg’s in the Jamaica Handicap. The daughter of Dynasty takes a while to get underway, so Brett feels the long straight of the summer course suits her just right. This is a hefty step up in class after winning her last start at a more humble MR 74 level, but it’s worth taking a shot for owner, Gaynor Rupert’s Drakenstein Stud, who is a pivotal sponsor of the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate Festival.
Our Emperor tries out a test of endurance in the Grade 3 Chairman’s Cup on Saturday. Brett admits to having some doubts about the 3200m trip, saying,
Nebula is in the deeply contentious Grade 2 Peninsula Handicap, a race that Crawford won last year with subsequent Met hero, Whisky Baron. Twice a winner of the Algoa Cup at Fairview, Nebula, now racing off an official mark of 105, is looking to win an important race back on home turf.
“We’re taking the bull by the horns going a proper staying distance. He is in good form, looks well and we’ll just sit quietly at the back initially, then hope he finishes his race off properly.”
Louisiana (MR 96) and Seattle Gold (MR 92) take a stab at the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes, run at weight for age. That makes it daunting for them confronting superior fillies and mares with triple digit merit ratings, but both are notably game and consistent performers that have won nine races between them, and will be fighting hard for some Black Type.
Tangling over 1600m with Horse of the Year, Legal Eagle has thus far proved an insurmountable task for all-comers. The gelding sports an undefeated record of seven from seven, including Queens Plate successes here in 2016 and 2017. Captain America has regularly clocked in a length or two in arrears behind the champ over this distance, and will strive to eventually capsize the favourite using pace-pressing tactics under stable jock, Corne Orffer.
“Captain America’s prep has gone well and he is now doing exceptionally. His coat has improved together with his whole physical appearance.”
reported his satisfied conditioner ahead of the big showdown. Other heavy hitters in a potent field include the high class son of Trippi, Gold Standard, July victor Marinaresco, Argentinian invader Hat Puntano and Winter Series star, African Night Sky.
Sail South is the other string to Crawford’s bow and he continues to provide owner/breeders, Gill Dempsey and Nigel Pott with amazing pleasure. This durable seven year old used a sharp turn of foot to place third three lengths off Legal Eagle in last year’s Queens Plate, before going on to win at Grade 1 level in the Champion’s Cup over 1800m at Greyville in July.
Brett’s pre race thoughts:
“Sail South is better now than in the Green Point. He is well within himself and in good form, so I’m expecting another honest effort.”
Indeed, the son of Sail from Seattle rates a solid place chance on his best past performances.
The excellent Stakes laden cards for Friday 5th and Saturday 6th January will tempt true racing fans, and Brett is inviting all his patrons to join in the fun at Crawford Racing’s Kenilworth suite, with hospitality and catering laid on throughout the festival. Feel welcome to pop in – win, lose or draw a good humoured sporting vibe always prevails in the box.
– Mark van Deventer