WAR OF ATHENA AND PACEMAKER PERFECTLY DRAWN

The Paul Matchett-trained Wilgerbosdrift Triple Tiara heroine War Of Athena faces the strongest field of her career in the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000 on Saturday but she should pass the test.

She is drawn in pole and has her reliable stablemate Only The Brave is drawn alongside her and can help ensure a suitable pace once again.

War Of Athena has a superb turn of foot that she has displayed at the tight Hollywoodbets Greyville turf track before when just failing to fetch the classy Anything Goes in the Grade 1 Thekwini over 1600m last year. This time she is not only drawn better but on pedigree this could well be her best trip. The small filly can march on to her sixth win in succession and eighth win of the season.

However, she does have an acid test because she has only ever bumped Johannesburg’s best three-year-olds and has not met the best from Cape Town. Captain’s Ransom might not be in the field but War Of Athena will still have to see off Princess Calla and Chat Ching.

The progressive Flower Alley filly Princess Calla was runner up to Captain’s Ransom in both the Grade 1 WSB Cape Gillies Guineas and the recent Grade 2 WSB Fillies Guineas at Hollywoodbets Greyville. Furthermore, she finished a 2,30 length third in the Grade 1 Cartier Paddock Stakes behind the two older stalwarts Queen Supreme and Clouds Unfold and then followed that with a fine fifth place finish in the Cape Town Met. The latter performance was no mean feat for a three-year-old filly especially when considering three of the horses who beat her have won three Vodacom Durban Julys and two Mets between them.

The one downside for Princess Calla on Saturday is having a tricky draw of five which could be made trickier by War Of Athena’s pacemaker Only The Brave. The latter will likely claim the rail early in front of War Of Athena. She will then be able to either speed up and keep the dangers wide if they try and go to the front or she could slow it down if the dangers drop out. So it has to be said Only The Brave and her boss, as it were, have landed perfect draws from a tactical point of view.

However, Only The Brave will not be slowing things down too much for those behind her because the local hope Emerald Palace is likely to set the pace. This Potala Palace filly was a hard-knocking maiden with eight starts behind her before joining the Gareth van Zyl yard and she has since been transformed into a dangerous front-runner. She won her first start for the Van Zyl yard by close to 15 lengths and followed it with a comfortable handicap victory despite having to run first time out the maidens off an 87 rating. Both runs were over 1900m on the poly and this is another step up in class but in a small field an effective front-runner is always dangerous. She is merit rated only 91, 31 points less than War Of Athena, but the question is whether she has any more to come.

Chat Ching was just a length behind Princess Calla in the Paddock Stakes and is better than her last start over 1600m. She is by Duke Of Marmalade, so will be improving, and is a half-sister to the Grade 2 New Turf Carriers Western Cape Stayers (2800m) winner Snapscan (Oratorio) so should relish this step up in trip.

Netta is also a very interesting runner. This long-striding filly has twice been beaten comfortably by War Of Athena, in the Grade 1 SA Fillies Classic over 1800m and the Grade 2 SA Oaks over 2450m. However, she stormed in by six lengths last time out in the Grade 2 Gerald Rosenberg Stakes over 2000m, so the Woolavington trip looks to be her optimum. She beat Sparkling Water in the Gerald Rosenberg and the latter was only beaten 4,50 lengths by War Of Athena in the SA Fillies Classic and two lengths in the SA Oaks. On paper that points to Netta being highly progressive. However, it has to be said War Of Athena was never under any real pressure to win any of the Triple Tiara legs.

Scented Mistress is the other runner in the field. She failed to win the Listed East Coast Cup over this course and distance on May 16 so has a tough task in this weight for age event. However, she had an apprentice aboard that day and was never really settled so can improve on that performance with Luke Ferraris up. She has scope and from the middle draw of four could be the dark horse.

Copy: David Thistelton, Gold Circle