Scottsville is the Marmite racecourse of South Africa. Some punters love it, others cannot ever come right there. Some horses love it, others not so much.
It looks innocent enough, a nice piece of real estate, nestled in Maritzburg’s genteel suburbia with pleasing views of the hills that surround the capital of KwaZulu-Natal. But it has been the downfall of many a fancy-pants racehorse.
The uphill finishing stretch is the key factor – it tests muscles and, more importantly, hearts. It sounds a contradiction in terms, but surprise results can be expected at any time.
Biggest meeting of the year
Scottsville hosts its biggest meeting of the year on Saturday, with its famous four Grade 1 1200m sprints: the Golden Horse Sprint, the SA Fillies Sprint, the Gold Medallion and the Allan Robertson Championship.
This speed fest makes up the first Jackpot bet of the day and a R3-million pool is predicted.
The headlining Golden Horse has thrown up plenty of upsets down the years, thanks to the aforementioned terrain. Runners with 1400m-1600m credentials can do well up the straight six furlongs, as speedier rivals get clapped out in the closing stages.
This year, the stars look aligned for the likely favourite Gimme A Prince, winner of the Cape Flying Championship in late January.
Gimme A Prince
The lightly raced four-year-old won on debut at this very course two years ago. His trainer Dean Kannemeyer, a master tactician, transported his then unraced juvenile all the way from Cape Town for an assault on the 2021 Gold Medallion.
All was going to plan as Gimme A Prince broke his maiden and got a feel for Scottsville. But racing being racing, things went awry on the big day. The stipes report for the Gold Medallion said he was restless, slow away, hanging and carried out. That’s a lot to cope with at high speed up the Scottsville hill – yet he got himself together enough to come from near last at the 800m mark to finish less than three lengths off 8-1 winner Ambiorix.
Since then, he’s not been out of the first two in seven outings. He’s won over 1400m and ran a superb second to the classy Trip Of Fortune in the 1400m Drill Hall Stakes at Greyville a month ago – in very soft going.
If punters – even Scottsville-averse ones – are looking for a banker for that hefty Jackpot, they could do worse than opt for Gimme A Prince.
The other Jackpot legs look a lot more difficult.
Princess Calla and Desert Miracle are the class acts in the Fillies Sprint and are widely tipped to fight it out, but the likes of Cold Fact and Golden Hostess shouldn’t be left out.
The two juvenile sprints are always lotteries, with precocious horses maturing at different rates and scanty form to go on. Go wide there.