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Preview: J&B Met

2013-01-31 11:44
J&B Met (File)
Cape Town - The highlight of the Cape racing season takes places on Saturday with the running of the Grade 1 J&B Met over 2 000m at Kenilworth Racecourse.

Goodforthegame's Alan Moscrop previews what should be a superb race on a spectacular day of action and entertainment.

A crowd of around 50 000 will descend on the wonderful surroundings of Kenilworth Racecourse from Saturday morning and will witness a day of catwalks and fashion mixed with the pure brilliance of thoroughbred racing. It's the place to be seen for all those looking to be spotted and to spot a famous face or two, and those making the trip will enjoy a fabulous days entertainment that really does showcase how horse racing leads the way when it comes to combining sport with a touch of elegance. But away from the shows and hospitality tents, there's the more serious matter for punters to weigh up who's going to be crowned J&B Met champion for 2013, and a quality field of 16 runners line-up to do battle over the Kenilworth 2 000m.

The final field was declared last week and there were a few shock omissions from the 16 that remained. Queen’s Plate facile winner Variety Club had been expected to go for the Grade 1 double however connections have elected to focus on other targets and the champion miler will not renew rivalries with favourite Jackson this weekend. There is also no runner this year from the Mike de Kock yard, with both Mujareeb and Rumya being withdrawn before the final field was declared, meaning the stable won't be back to defend the title they won with Igugu's win in the race last year. There's just one female entry in the field, the KwaZulu-Natal trained Beach Beauty, who will attempt to beat the boys again like she has often done in her impressive career, and at the bottom of the weights is the only 3-year-old in the field King Of Pain, who runs with just 53kg on his back.

LATEST BETTING

A big pointer to the Met each year is normally the Queen’s Plate, run in early January over the Kenilworth mile, and that was no different this year, with the horses that mostly dominate the current betting for the Met having clashed in that Queen’s Plate a few weeks ago. Jackson and Pomodoro had to be separated by the judge for second place behind Variety Club and these two top the bookmakers boards for this weekend's clash. Jackson has been a warm ante-post favourite for some time for the Met, and this run in the Queen’s Plate, combined with the non-participation of Variety Club this weekend, has only resulted in his odds coming in further for the win. Both he and Pomodoro ran superb races over the mile, a trip short of their best, and Pomodoro is a clear second favourite to follow up his Durban July win with another Grade 1 victory.

Beach Beauty was an impressive winner in the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes on Queen’s Plate day and her odds have been coming in all the time, despite getting a wide starting stall in the official draw last week, and the Dennis Drier runner is without question the money horse so far this week. Slumdogmillionaire caught the eye when finishing strongly for fifth in the Queen’s Plate and many expect him to strip a far fitter horse here on Saturday, and his double figure odds may not last too much later into the week. Away from these top 4 in  the betting there's plenty value to be had as we're looking at 16/1 and upwards the rest of the field, with a number of talented sorts such as Hill Fifty Four, Bravura, Master Plan and King of Pain sure to have their supporters at biggish looking odds, especially if the more fancied quartet should fluff their lines on Saturday.

Latest best win odds are shown below (prices correct at Wednesday, January 30):

Jackson - 2/1
Pomodoro - 4/1
Beach Beauty - 6/1
Slumdogmillionaire - 11/1
King Of Pain - 16/1
Master Plan - 16/1   
Bravura - 16/1
Run For It - 20/1
Hill Fifty Four - 25/1
Martial Eagle - 50/1
Tribal Dance - 66/1
Black Wing - 80/1
Bulsara - 80/1
Ice Machine - 100/1
In Writing - 100/1
Fabiani - 125/1

THE MAIN CONTENDERS

Jackson comes into this race as a deserved favourite, with two wins from two runs over 2 000m, and the long striding Dynasty colt looks perfectly suited to this trip. After flopping when a short favourite for the Durban July last season, he's chased home Variety Club his last three runs all over shorter, and with a superb draw of stall 5 he's the one to beat. Of concern was the tough race he had in the Queen’s Plate, with the false start leaving the sometimes highly strung colt a bit distressed post race. However the stable have had plenty time to sharpen him up again for the Met and it's whatever finishes ahead of him will win the race.

Pomodoro was a gallant close third just a nose behind Jackson in the Queen’s Plate and his form this season has been bullet-proof, showing his Durban July winning class and versatility in winning over a sprint and mile since that July success. His best form however is over this extended trip and it shouldn't be forgotten that he won the July from an impossible 20 draw. He will have now been down in the Cape for a good month and will have settled even further into his surroundings and should enjoy his second run on the Kenilworth track. Striker Strydom knows this 4 year old son of Jet Master better than anyone and he's sure to give Pomodoro every chance of picking yet another Grade 1 victory.

Slumdogmillionaire is one of the horses to have gotten the better of Pomodoro over a similar trip as a 3-year-old when he picked up the SA Classic by a fast diminishing 0.1 length at Turffontein over the 1 800m. Unfortunately that was the last time we were to see Slumdog for a good nine months due to surgery to remove a chipped bone. He came out with a prep run in KZN before going straight down the Cape for the Queen’s Plate, were he clearly was still needing the run. He ran with credit, finishing a close up fifth behind his main rivals for this weekend, and he's bound to have come on even further after that run. The stable have been sounding bullish of getting the better of his opponents on Saturday and with a plum draw he must be a big runner.

As stated above, the 5-year-old mare Beach Beauty has been all the rage in the betting this week, coming in from around 10/1 all the way into just 11/2 in some places. I have a real soft spot for this superb daughter of Dynasty, and Goodforthegame regulars will know I’ve been punting her for most of her career. In fact she was my tip for both last year's Met and the Durban July, but sadly didn't quite produced the goods on both days. The good news for those looking to back 'the Beauty' is that trainer Dennis Drier has her in absolutely tip-top shape, and her last two wins have been super-impressive. She's now a 10 time winner and has taught the boys a lesson on a few occasions already, including when winning over the Kenilworth 1800m on her penultimate run when she accounted for several of this weekend's rivals in the Grade 2 Premier Trophy. Sean Cormack has struck up an excellent understanding with how she runs best and Beach Beauty has the class to make up for her unlucky fifth in last season's Met with a big run on Saturday.

The sole representative of the younger crop is the Joey Ramsden trained King Of Pain, who comes into the race with bags of scope, although he does still need to improve further to beat the a few here. His needed his last run when making up steady ground to finish fourth over 1 600m in the Cape Guineas, and he did get the better of Cape Derby favourite Capetown Noir on his penultimate run in the Selengor Cup, again over the mile. This will be his first run beyond that trip which must be a concern, but as a 3-year-old he gets a big weight advantage and it won't be a surprise to see King Of Pain making a dash for home early, however his outside draw of 13 does make his task on Saturday that bit more difficult.

Also from the Ramsden yard is the talented but sometimes frustrating 6-year-old Bravura, who gets the services of champion jockey Anton Marcus. Relatively lightly raced for his age, Bravura takes part in his third J&B Met and will be looking to go one better than his excellent second place behind Igugu 12 months ago. He's a twice course/distance winner, however those victories came as a 3 year old and he has been a touch inconsistent in recent seasons. He didn't show in the Queen’s Plate last time out but had excuses after stumbling early in the race, and if he brings his A-game to the track on Saturday he's one you can't rule out for getting into the places, especially with Marcus aboard.

Master Plan had a stellar 3-year-old career last season, winning 4 of his 8 starts including the Grade 2 Derby and Grade 1 Champions Cup during the KZN winter feature season. He's not quite reached those heights this season but has seldom been far off behind the very best in the country and if anything he could be considered as the unlucky horse in the Queen’s Plate, when his run was hampered quite badly around the 250m mark. He did prove himself over distance last season in the KZN Derby, albeit in a weakish field, but is one to certainly consider for selection this weekend.

Run For It was just behind Master Plan in the Queen’s Plate and he remains a talented yes frustrating sort, evident in a race record that includes no less than 6 runner-up finishes and a further four third place results in his career to date. He's not win in well over two years now however his form before the Queen’s Plate suggested he was close to breaking that winless streak after finishing close up behind Beach Beauty and Capetown Noir in his only two runs since returning from a long break after last year's Met. There's no question he was a desperately unlucky fourth in the 2012 Met, absolutely flying at the death when checked for a run, however he's been drawn out in the sticks in stall 16 and will need to have everything go his way to fight it out for race honours.

Hill Fifty Four goes for a fourth win on the bounce but faces his toughest task to date by some margin. The Vaughan Marshall trained 4-year-old has risen rapidly up in class and accounted for a decent enough field of Grade 2 sorts in the Peninsula Handicap last time out over the Kenilworth 1 800m, although he did have the run of the race on that occasion. He's not won beyond that trip as yet and the classy opponents he encounters this time around might be a bit beyond his reach, although if he continues to show that same level of improvement he's demonstrated this season then he could be a trifecta or quartet chance.

Martial Eagle was flagged in our Queen’s Plate preview as being one of the better looking runners of the big outsiders, but he shocked many, myself included, by getting right in amongst the very best when a close up fourth behind Variety Club, Jackson and Pomodoro, and was in fact just 0.1 of a length adrift of second place. The 2 000m trip however must pose serious questions about his stamina, and he's never won nor been tried beyond the mile. A game older sort but I don't see him troubling the judge this time around.

Of the remaining runners, which are all big outsiders at 66/1 an upwards, only Tribal Dance appeals to me as a possible inclusion for consideration. He looks the second string of the Marshall runners but on his best form could be the better of the big outsiders, especially with no stamina doubts based on wins over 2 200m and 2 400m last season, including a pair of Grade 3 victories. This will be his fourth run after a break and he should be cherry-ripe for this outing and shouldn't be completely written off.

SUMMARY & SELECTIONS

Regular visitors to the Goodforthegame website or those that read my Queen’s Plate preview on the Sport24 website a few weeks back will hopefully have climbed aboard the treble that was recommended on the day which culminates with a bet on Jackson to with the J&B Met this weekend. The first two legs went in comfortably, which were Jackson to place in the Queen’s Plate and Beach Beauty to win the big fillies & mares feature race on the same day, and the 11/1 price obviously now looks massive considering Jackson is no bigger than 2/1 for race honours on Saturday. As is to be expected i'm finding it a bit hard to be rooting for anything other than the Brett Crawford trained colt.

But putting aside the treble, even back before the end of last year I really did look at this race as being between only a couple horses, and the main danger to Jackson comes from the obvious threat of Pomodoro, Beach Beauty and Slumdogmillionaire. The latter named Gavin van Zyl is going to have plenty of each-way support given his double figure price, as will the game mare Beach  Beauty. But if he brings his best to the track and shows no ill-effects of that tough Queen’s Plate outing, I'm expecting Jackson show why he's been so highly touted for such a long period and get up for the win. He's going to need to be at peak to beat this quality field, and like in last year's Met there could be only a couple lengths separating the first 4 or so past the post.

As was the case on Queen’s Plate day when we went with exactas and swingers on Variety Club and Jackson, the pools and dividends on these two bets tend to be very healthy on these big-race days, and that should again be the case on Saturday. Beach Beauty has been the money horse all week and she's definitely the one I fear most and gets the vote for exactas and swingers with Jackson. And if you're the sort of punter who likes to the thrill of backing a big roughie with a smaller stake, I make Tribal Dance as the better shot of the 50/1 and upwards outsiders, especially if there's a strong head-wind that could make this more of a stamina test than usual.

So in summary my betting strategy is as follows:

RECOMMENDED BETS:

Main bet: Jackson to win @ 2/1
Boxed Exacta: Jackson / Beach Beauty
Swinger: Jackson / Beach Beauty
Roughie bet: Tribal Dance place at 8/1 (or small each-way @ 66/1)

The balance of the Kenilworth card is definitely worth getting involved in as there's some excellent fields and further graded racing, including the Investec Cape Derby, where the ultra-impressive Capetown Noir looks too further cement his reputation as one of the leading 3-year-olds in the country. The Dean Kannemeyer-trained colt is a hot favourite to enjoy the step up in distance is a short odds-on favourite to take the win. I don't see him disappointing and he's one to include for doubles and trebles on the day.

The big fillies and mares race on the day is the Grade 1 Majorca Stakes over the mile, and this looks a much more wide open contest with no horse currently shorter than 11/2. My pick in this race is Thunder Dance, who is from the same owner/trainer combination behind Jackson. Thunder Dance didn't quite see out the 1 800m last time out behind Beach Beauty, however she was an impressive course and distance winner the run previously, where she got the better of Martial Eagle who came out to run a close fourth in the Queen’s Plate next time out. She meets a top class field here including some very progressive 3-year-olds, but at 12/1 I rate her as a solid each-way punt, despite having quite a wide draw.

The final big feature race on the day comes in the final race of the day, where some of the top stayers will clash over 2 800m in the Grade 2 J&B Jet Stayers. It's another race were a host of runners have chances but i'm sticking with the consistent Blake, who currently tops the betting boards at around 33/10. He has been slowly coming back to best and although he carries top weight here he’s still the class horse in the field and should be right there at the death.

Taking all selection of the above picks together, my suggested All To Come bet for punters is as follows:

Derby: Capetown Noir win
Majorca: Thunder Dance place (4 places)
J&B Met: Beach Beauty place (4 places)
Stayers: Blake place (3 places)

The above All To Come bet works out at around 10/1, depending on your bookmakers latest odds.

Goodforthegame.co.za provides sports betting previews for all major local sporting events such as the Currie Cup, Super Rugby, domestic and international cricket, as well as English Premiership football and much more!


Read more on:    j&b met  |  horseracing
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