3 minute read
There was consternation in the camp when S’manga Khumalo elected to give up the ride on Jet Dark for the G1 Durban July (2200m) in favour of the filly Sparkling Water.
As things transpired, Khumalo made the correct decision as to which was the right horse in the race, Sparkling Water winning by a street with Jet Dark rattling on for a game second, but he didn't win the popularity contest.
Khumalo's decision did not sit well with the Snaith stable as the talented rider had partnered Jet Dark to two G1 success for Justin Snaith, including the G1 HKJC World Pool Champions Cup (1800m) that heads the card at Greyville on Saturday, 30 July.
In an ironic twist, Khumalo has been replaced on Jet Dark by Richard Fourie in the HKJC World Pool Champions Cup with Mike de Kock booking Khumalo for G1 Gold Challenge (1600m) winner Al Muthana in a race where Jet Dark finished third.
Fourie was aboard Al Muthana that afternoon and will be bidding for his eighth G1 success of the season on Jet Dark .
Jet Dark has not garnered the pubic adulation of some of his rivals possibly because the record of last season's Champion Miler is peppered with some low-key efforts in races he was expected to win. But Snaith is on record as saying that Jet Dark takes time to warm up after a lay-off and needs at least two starts to get his engine firing on all cylinders.
This was born out in the lead up to this year's July where he turned in – for him – a disappointing effort in the G2 Drill Hall Stakes (1400m) and only got going late in the G1 Gold Challenge, beaten less than a length by Al Muthana.
Although subsequently beaten in the July, he was giving the winner 14lb and as is his want, he came from well back to out-point the rest of the field.
As was the case last year, Snaith has included the natural front-runner Crown Towers as pacemaker and in a small field of 9 Jet Dark should have it all his own way.
There is little to choose between perennial rivals Linebacker and Kommetdieding, although the latter is in front on current form and results. Vaughan Marshal had Linebacker primed for the July after finishing a close-up second to Al Muthana in the G1 Gold Challenge but the gelding did not get the best of passages and finished down-field. While it is dangerous to make excuses for beaten horses, this run was so far below par that it is best ignored.
Taking horses from Cape Town to the rarefied air of the Highveld is not easily done as Cape-based horses seldom produce their best. This was seemingly the case with G1 The Met (2000m) winner Kommetdieding who put in two below par performances with the 'experts' saying "we told you so."
Their opinion was seemingly born out with Kommetdieding four lengths back in fifth in the July.
But back at sea level with that run under his girth, he could well strip a serious threat to Jet Dark who he meets on the same weight terms as the July and The Met where he beat Jet Dark.
Linebacker on the other hand is 3lb worse off but did finish ahead of Jet Dark in the Gold Challenge at level weights.
Gold Challenge winner Al Muthana is 4lb worse off with Jet Dark on their July performance but like Linebacker, finished ahead of Jet Dark in the Gold Challenge at level weights.
The balance of the field, while smart in their own right, look a cut below the above mentioned and the selection is Jet Dark to edge out Kommetdieding and Linebacker with Al Muthana also in the mix.