The boom horse taking on the form horse could turn this year’s Grade 1 Met (2000m) at Kenilworth racecourse on Saturday (1 February) into an absolute thriller.
Mike de Kock has prepped Hawwaam for the South African major and rates the son of Silvano among the best horses he has trained. The three-time G1 winner has been the ‘boom horse’ for the last year, getting his name in the press for conflicting reasons.
He showed big potential from the start when coming up trumps in his first three races but then tasted defeat in the G2 Gauteng Guineas (1600m) when he got too far back from a wide draw and could only finish second. Hawwaam then romped to victory in the G1 SA Classic (1800m) but got the wrong kind of headlines for his antics before the G1 SA Derby when he got away from his handlers in the parade ring, bounded to the start without his jockey and was withdrawn.
The talented entire then won the G1 Champions Challenge (2000m) at Turffontein, followed by the G1 Daily News 2000 at Greyville. As a result, he started favourite for the G1 Durban July but once again he was withdrawn at the start, this time after he injured himself entering the starting stall.
Hawwaam had a long rest before his return in mid-November, a sprint win over 1200m at the Vaal. Shipped to Cape Town thereafter, he got off to the perfect start, winning his eighth race in the G2 Premier Trophy (1800m) at Kenilworth.
But things didn’t work out in the G1 Queen’s Plate (1600m) last time. De Kock’s star was odds-on favourite but after leading early on he faded in the straight to finish fifth, behind Vardy, with Rainbow Bridge third.
That makes Vardy the ‘form horse’. Last year, trainer Adam Marcus told anybody who would listen how good the son of Var really was and that he would be a brilliant four-year-old. He was spot on and his charge has won the G1 Queen’s Plate and the G2 Green Point Stakes, both over 1600m, with ease, coming from last.
He runs well for jockey Craig Zackey who will ride him once again.
Vardy has had an immaculate build-up for the Met and if there are any chinks in Hawwaam’s armour, the gelding could be the one to expose them again.
Rainbow Bridge has done little wrong in his warm-up, running third in both 1600m races behind Vardy. He will have Ryan Moore up – off the plane after riding More Than This to second in the Hong Kong Classic Mile at Sha Tin on Monday – so that will add to his chances.
Twist Of Fate moved to the Marcus yard late last year. His first run saw him finish five lengths behind Hawwaam in the Premier Trophy but he then managed to run fourth in the Queen’s Plate, finishing a length and a quarter ahead of Hawwaam, which does indicate De Kock’s runner did perform below his ability that day.
It’s hard to know what to expect from Do It Again, South Africa’s Horse Of the Year. He won three G1 races last season but finished sixth behind Vardy in both the Green Point Stakes and the Queen’s Plate in his two comeback races.
All sorts of excuses have been offered from the Justin Snaith yard but nothing substantial enough to really explain the two disappointing displays. There was a lot of talk emanating from the yard that there was only a 50% chance he would run in the Met and although he has taken his place, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding his form.
One World is a class performer but he seems to be at his best over 1600m and is likely to be fading out of contention in the closing stages. However, sometimes the steadying tempo of what is known as the “Cape crawl” kicks in and that opens the door to horses with suspect staying power.