Saturday afternoon sees South Africa host a capacity field of precocious two-year-old fillies with the running of the grade I Wet Bikini Stakes. The race represents a leap into the unknown for all starters, none having fronted up for a grade I race before or ever started over the mile before. Bookmakers have had great difficulty framing a market for this race with so little disclosed form. As a result, we have three horses within a point of each other at the head of the market and a correspondent who can make a case for virtually every starter coming home victorious.
#1 JUST A WASP (Just A Way) 3-2-0-0 Opening Odds 17/1
Eschewing the Maiden path, Lightng debuted Just A Wasp in a Japan Allowance where she was tardy out of the gates but soon assumed a handy position, a couple of lengths off the lead. In the run home she picked up strongly and accounted for the early leader before registering a length win. Following this race Just A Wasp moved up to stakes class and achieved an all-the-way win in Wyoming. Just A Wasp’s globetrotting continued in her latest run when she appeared at Berkshire for a grade II stakes. By mid-race she had assumed a mid-field spot, three lengths from the lead, a position she then maintained for the remainder of the race. A grade II win here would equal sire Just A Way’s best result but the surface and distance have certainly been to his progeny’s liking in the past. The very proficient R Whisper will travel from Surrey to guide Just A Wasp in the Wet Bikini.
#2 RED DRAGOON (Cameron Highland (IRE) ) 3-1-2-0 Opening Odds 14/1
Lightly used sire, Cameron Highland, will be searching for his first graded stakes winner when Red Dragoon jumps from barrier 2 in the Wet Bikini stakes. Ultra consistent, Red Dragoon has finished at the pointy end in her three starts and has franked her first-up Allowance win with two stakes placings. In all three starts she has been doing her best work at the finish and looks certain to benefit from the additional two and a half furlongs of this event. Red Dragoon’s last start was her most impressive, a strong-finishing second in a Danish stakes race. The additional two and a half furlongs of the Wet Bikini look to be a real bonus for Red Dragoon. Red Dragoon will be piloted by stable favourite T Tees.
#3 PRICELESS ADVICE (Galileo (IRE) ) 2-2-0-0 Opening Odds 4/1
The morning line favourite for the Wet Bikini is the impeccably-bred Galileo filly Priceless Advice, one of two entries for Tenpoint Racing Stables. Unbeaten, Priceless Advice started her career with a gate to wire romp in a Kentucky Maiden in May over six and a half furlongs. Priceless Advice returned to Kentucky in mid June and showed that her debut was no flash in the pan. Bursting from the gates she was never headed and recorded an excellent 79 over the seven furlong journey. Experienced jockey B Doherty should find gate 3 the perfect alley to launch Priceless Advice into the lead with a perfect rails run, but she is not the only entrant possessing blistering speed.
#4 SOPHIE HOHENBERG (Akmanzor (FR) ) 2-2-0-0 Opening Odds 5/1
Challenging Priceless Advice for favouritism, and the race lead, is fellow-unbeaten filly Sophie Hohenberg. Bred by the WarEmblem Stables, Sophie Hohenberg is believed to have been named after Princess Sophie of Hohenberg, daughter of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria. Her career started with an all-the-way win in a Paris Maiden over five furlongs at the start of April. A brief trip across the Atlantic to New York allowed Sophie Hohenberg to retain her unbeaten record with a barn-storming front running charge over the longer six and a half furlong journey. The allowance win saw her registering a very slick 79 SP. Connections have attracted the well-credentialed Danish hoop M Kiprusoff who clearly sees plenty of upside in this lightly-raced filly.
#5 FRANKLY STARTLING (Frankel (GB) ) 3-1-1-0 Opening Odds 6/1
The blueblood of the field is the Frankel filly Frankly Startling. Frankly Startling has displayed considerable stalking abilities in her three starts thus far. She sat among the tailenders in her debut Maiden before bursting through the pack and winning impressively. Running in a stakes race at her next start Frankly Startling failed to reproduce her finishing brilliance but still finished solidly beating all but the winner A.P.Deflate. Tenpoint Racing showed plenty of confidence in their filly by then sending her out in a grade II in Berkshire. Frankly Startling had only one view of her fellow contenders when she commenced her run at the two and a half furlong mark but was beaten by just over a length at the post. If ever an unplaced run was impressive, this was it. Champion Turkish jockey H Artack will be new to Frankly Startling but will be happy to see plenty of pace up front to help her ‘sit and surge’ style of racing.
#6 KOKADARK (Vadamos (FR) ) 1-1-0-0 Opening Odds 40/1
Rank outsider in the Wet Bikini is Lightng’s Vadamos-sired filly, Kokadark. The only exposure punters have had to Kokadark was in mid June when she lined up in a very small field in an Iowa Allowance. Although she was also the outsider of the field in that race the closest her opponents came to her was standing next to her in the barriers. The five furlongs were as far as Kokadark was wanting on that day but the engagement of N Labreche from Italy may see a slight change of tactics against the charging Priceless Advice and Sophie Hohenberg.
#7 STARORDER (Order of St George (IRE) ) 3-1-1-0 Opening Odds 14/1
BobMarley Racing Stables have put their faith in first year sire Order Of St George in breeding Starorder and have been rewarded with his best performing offspring. Starorder opened her account in her first start in an Irish Maiden. Racing near the pace Starorder proved too strong and registered a creditable SP of 65. Eight weeks later she had crossed the English Channel and contested a Paris stakes race. On this occasion Starorder was held back in the early going and pulled out a powerful finish, only to find the finishing post 50 metres too close. Backtracking across the Channel, Starorder was then tested in a graded stakes for the first time. Employing the same ‘sit’ tactics repeat pilot T O’Shea wound Starorder up but didn’t find the same spring in her step. Starorder ground her way steadily to the line, working her way into the top six and finishing a length behind rival Darkeus. O’Shea is very familiar with Starorder’s idiosyncrasies and will be looking for the key to bringing back her Paris form..
#8 PACK OF TROJANS (Trojan Nation) 2-1-0-0 Opening Odds 11/1
MTK76 Racing Stables have paired their grade II-winning mare, Saphire Blue, with first season sire Trojan Nation to produce filly Pack Of Trojans. The winner of 3 grade II’s at or near the mile, Saphire Blue has already produced a grade III winner and is looking to reach the grade I pinnacle with Pack Of Trojans today. Ireland was the location for Pack Of Trojans to begin her racing career, in a six furlong stakes race. In a tightly contested event she ran close to the lead and simply proved too strong and determined for her rivals in a narrow win. Her SP of 67 was very impressive for an early-season filly at her first start. After a break of two months Pack of Trojans was next seen in a full field in an Italian stakes over six furlongs. In this race she travelled a few lengths off the lead. Although clearly beaten and out of the money she battled home resolutely and still recorded an improved SP of 76. The owners were clearly not impressed with S L Ledwith’s handling in that race and have booked the experienced P Harzheim for the Wet Bikini.
#9 SAVOURY SHAPES (Camelot (GB) ) 2-1-1-0 Opening Odds 13/1
Camelot has sired an impressive looking filly, Savoury Shapes. Out of a grade I winning miler mare, Savoury Shapes made an early January impression, quickening in the last furlong to take out an allowance after trailing the whole field for the first half of the race. Trainer Corza then showed commendable patience holding her back for her second run until the end of April when Savoury Shapes stepped out in an Indian stakes. Exhibiting the same running style she dropped out early but finished the five furlong event in fine style, missing the win by under half a length. Successful Queensland jockey C Wyatt will be taking the ride on Savoury Shapes for the first time but will clearly have no trouble with her straight forward running style.
#10 A.P.DEFLATE (National Defense) 3-1-0-1 Opening Odds 18/1
Consistency in speed has been the hallmark of A.P.Deflate, sired by second-year stallion National Defense, who has managed only a single graded winner to date. A solid, but unspectacular, debut third in an Irish Maiden was followed by a more convincing stakes win over a shorter distance in New South Wales in April. Frankly Startling was a notch in her belt in this race. A trip to Berkshire for a grade II in June produced a pedestrian four length defeat for A.P.Deflate. In all 3 races her speed figures ranged between 65 and 67 and it was not entirely clear what her optimum running style should be. This is the first dilemma which will confront D Evans, who failed to find the key to success in her last start grade II defeat.
#11 X MARSCAY (Mehmas) 3-0-1-1 Opening Odds 19/1
Still a maiden, X Marscay has been set a considerable task by Lightng Racing – find your first win in a competitive grade I. There is little confidence in the betting ring with X Marscay easy at 19 to 1. At her first start in a Florida Maiden, X Marscay was not disgraced in running home strongly over six furlongs to go under by just a length. Backing up in Florida five weeks later in a stakes race X Marscay ran an even race but never challenged for the win. Six weeks later X Marscay travelled to Berkshire for the grade II Capital Stakes but she failed to fire and weaken to finish amongst the tail-enders. Very successful Paris jockey J Ledwith will take the mount here in South Africa and will be looking for a great improvement in her performance.
#12 NO NAY SPIRIT (No Nay Never) 3-2-1-0 Opening Odds 5/1
Also vying for race favouritism is No Nay Never sired filly, No Nay Spirit. Racing out of the megalith Harrylan Stables, No Nay Spirit first stepped out on a track in an Irish Maiden in February. Settling comfortably toward the rear of the field, No Nay Spirit picked up well at the three furlong pole and ran home solidly for second. No Nay Spirit’s SP of 74 was very good but the winner has failed to hit the boards in her five other starts, certainly not franking the quality of the run. After a near two month break No Nay Spirit returned in a Berkshire Maiden over six and a half furlongs, settling near the back and bursting through for a clear-cut victory. Stepping up to Allowance level repeated the process in Berkshire in June, recording a SP of 82. E Bernstein will be the fourth different rider to take the No Nay Spirit reins but the German is very confident of adding another grade I riding trophy to his cabinet.
#13 DARKEUS (Vadamos (FR) ) 2-1-0-0 Opening Odds 8/1
Having a third start will be Lightng Racing Stable’s Vadamos filly, Darkeus. First seen in an Argentinian stakes, Darkeus was the only challenger to the tearaway leader, swooping in the last half furlong for a convincing win, registering an impressive 82 speed figure for the five and a half furlong course. Two months later Darkeus stepped up to graded level in the Capital Stakes in Berkshire where she was unable to display the same finishing power, battling home to a creditable 5th, beating home Starorder and X Marscay. Notwithstanding the relative disappointment of her second run the brilliance of her debut suggests that Spaniard M Zeus may well be toasting a grade I victory ride on Darkeus come Saturday afternoon.
#14 CONTRASTATION (Mohaymen) 3-1-1-0 Opening Odds 30/1
Meguire brings his Mohaymen filly Contrastation to South Africa for her first tilt at a graded win. Contrastation is from Mohaymen’s second crop and already represents one of his most successful runners, being one of only three stake winners. Contrastation achieved this at her first start when she shocked punters and bookmakers alike in an Irish stakes win over five and a half furlongs of turf. Meguire rolled the dice by following up with a stakes run on sloppy German dirt but came up with snakes-eyes. At her latest outing back in Ireland in an allowance Contrastation produced a better run finishing off the race nicely for a strong second place. The only local jockey in the race, T Lopez, will jump from the outside barrier and is certain to cross to the fence and settle well back in the field. Only time will tell if Contrastation still has petrol in the tank when the time comes to quicken her pace over the concluding four furlongs.
In trying to produce a speed map for the Wet Bikini it is clear that three contenders present themselves as likely leaders, Priceless Advice, Sophie Hohenberg and outsider Kokadark. Priceless Advice’s natural brilliance is likely to win out but she will be pushed solidly by the other two. Normally a hot pace at front would lead to a giant smile on the faces of jockeys riding the stalkers but the quality of Priceless Advice and Sophie Hohenberg is much higher than the average speed demon.
The second half of the race will see the commencement of the charge of the challengers, headed by No Nay Spirit, Frankly Startling, Red Dragoon, Savoury Shapes and Darkeus.
Over the last furlong Sophie Hohenberg finally draws level with a desperate Priceless Advice with Frankly Startling and No Nay Spirit drawing closer but running out of ground.
1st Sophie Hohenberg
2nd Priceless Advice
3rd Frankly Startling
Disclaimer: The writer will not accept liability for any losses incurred by people relying on the accuracy of this prediction.