Gold Cup: a race that goes the distance
It's Gold Cup time. In winter, it's the cup that cheers the racing gang.
Just the name "Gold Cup" is evocative of good things. A cup suggests warmth and sustenance - even intoxication, eh, you devil. And when the cup is made of gold, all you can think of is a lustrous hue - and riches.
Gold investments are touted as a life raft in troubled economic times, and even more so when a financial timebomb (also known as the euro) is ticking ever louder across the world.
So, amid gloomy winter musings, the marathon on the Greyville greensward offers hope of a little salvation.
I love long-distance races like the Gold Cup, the Comrades Marathon of the ponies, for the qualities of endurance and heart that horses must show. But, sadly, these contests are declining in popularity.
Horse-owners demand instant success and quick wins nowadays - and that means a growing demand for sprinting pedigrees and sprint races. Sprinters "come early" in racing parlance - meaning they're more likely to win as juveniles, soon after purchase, than are "staying" horses. Inevitably, thoroughbred breeders, who must sell on the open market, tend to favour matings that will produce speed rather than stamina.
Quality in the staying ranks might not be what it was, but the line-up for tomorrow's Gold Cup is indeed none too shabby - which, perversely perhaps, makes it difficult to find a winner.
In recent times, a few favourites have won the country's premier long-distance contest. But in its long history it has been a happy hunting ground for outsiders, making the selection process a tad more complex, but offering chances of a good return on investment.
Such chances are enhanced by the tote paying out for the first six placings - as it did in the Durban July.
My Gold Cup shortlist of six is: Blake (5/1), Vettel (5/1), Seal (12/1), Sage Throne (12/1), In Writing (14/1) and Soul Master (33/1).
Blake and Vettel are joint favourites at 5/1 - a weak board-topper, indicating just how open the race is.
Vettel ran a decent sixth in the 2200m July and might enjoy the extra 100m here. Not many three-year-olds have won the Gold Cup, but Mike de Kock is one of the few trainers to have bucked that trend.
Seal took the 3000m Gold Vase in style on July Day, but has top weight and a wide draw. Over this distance, the latter might not be as big a disadvantage as it usually is at Greyville.
The four-year-old is trained by Gavin van Zyl, whose yard is in good form at present, and I take him to win it.
Gold Cup day mirrors July day at the Durban city course, with 12 races on the card - including four Grade 1s. The Champions Cup is scarcely less important than the marquee event.
GOLD CUP (RACE 7): 1 Seal, 12 Vettel, 6 In Writing, 11 Soul Master
CHAMPIONS CUP (RACE 8): 5 Solo Traveller, 1 Pierre Jourdan, 2 Tales Of Bravery, 3 Chesalon