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Matchem Stakes and Diana Stakes Preview

Matchem Stakes and Diana Stakes Preview from Interbet
South africa horse racing
South African celebrities Khanyi Mbau (L) and Boitumelo Thulo attend the 2019 editon of the Vodacom Durban July horse race in Durban. Getty.com
The Matchem and Diana Stakes traditionally kick start the Spring season in the Cape and provide a good pointer to upcoming Feature races during Summer

Some seriously smart horses have contested these 1400m races in the past, with the honours roll full of subsequent G1 and G2 winners. It’s not quite as simple as honing in on the obvious class standouts though, as physical condition is also an important factor early in the season and trying to predict how the race will unfold is always especially pertinent at the tight Durbanville circuit.

Undercover Agent (speed figure 110) and One World (s/s 112) are cases in point. They have a significant edge in ability over the rest of the Matchem field yet neither have run for about four months so there has to be some doubt over their race fitness. Undercover Agent also has not raced at Durbanville before which poses a conundrum – either the peculiar bends might not quite suit this long-striding gelding, or he may actually enjoy the fast -running track which currently is favouring rail- hugging, handy types.

Star Chestnut (s/s 105) for the hot Snaith/Fourie combo lacks the absolute ability of the two mentioned. Yet he will be in prime condition and has a win over last year’s second in the Matchem, New Caledonia (s/s 105) to his credit. African Warrior (s/s 99 +) is a scopey three year- old with a sharp turn of foot and Kannemeyer/de Melo are another trainer jockey duo in a rich vein of form. Search Party (s/s 107) has not won in 841 days but may now appreciate this slightly longer route after not being disgraced in top level sprints up country.

Other marginal contenders include the progressive, Sacred Arrow (s/s 106) and pace-pressing gelding, Pleasedtomeetyou (s/s 104) who tussled in July and showed enough to be used on wider tickets. New Caledonia is always a threat with his late-charging tactics and could be added underneath to single race exotics. By virtue of consistency, Ready Steady Go (s/s 105) may keep on for a minor share, though it’s a stretch to see him winning at this class level.

So, punters will need to make a strategic decision before constructing their perms. Either emphasize proven ability and focus on top quality distance specialist, One World and class act, Undercover Agent. Or, given question marks about these principals, look for something daft to happen and cast a wider net.
Front and Centre (s/s 102) could be the solution as the most probable winner of the Diana Stakes. This Dynasty filly has raced at the highest level from 1600m – 2000m (Fillies Guineas, Majorca, Woolavington), using considerable powers of acceleration to win half of her eight career starts. She too has not been out since a Durban Winter campaign, which may temper enthusiasm somewhat yet has won fresh in the past and is proven at the course.

Front and Centre will prefer a strong early pace but there is no guarantee that will happen as only Helen’s Ideal is a confirmed front runner. Given the possibility of a soft pace, her main danger could be Lesedi la Rona (s/s 100) who is teed up to run big in an easy 1400m. She too can quicken up nicely and should be building momentum when it counts. In this race last year, she made a late dart to finish 2.6 lengths off Love to Boogie. Her recent prep run over 1000m to power sprinter, Celestial Storm at this track encourages hope. Despite her erratic past performances, she appeals as an attractive each way play at tempting odds.

The place slots are up for grabs. Perhaps, the lightly campaigned, talented, Sugar Girl (s/s 102), determined front-runner and possible lone speed, Helen’s Ideal (s/s 99) together with Dynamic Diana (s/s 97) could be best of the rest and worth using in exotic plays.

Below are the full fields in card order with each runner’s best speed figure listed:
G3 Diana Stakes 1400m Race 6
Front and Centre - 102
Freedom Charter - 96
Dynamic Diana - 97
Sugar Girl - 102
Intothelimelight - 95
Helen’s Ideal - 99
Star Fighter - 94
Shamrock Wind - 95
Lesedi la Rona - 100
Madonna - 98

G3 Matchem Stakes 1400m Race 7
Undercover Agent - 110
One World - 112
Search Party - 107
New Caledonia - 105
Star Chestnut  - 105
Bishops Bounty - 103
Fifty Cents - 105
Ready, Steady, Go - 105
Pleasedtomeetyou - 104
Sacred Arrow - 106
African Warrior - 99+

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