With a variety of solid, but not quite spectacular performances in the U.S. this week, I instead cast my gaze across the globe to the premier mile event in South Africa for this week’s top honor. Capetown Noir, winner of both the Cape Guineas and Cape Derby last season, returned to top form to win the Grade 1 L'Ormarins Queen's Plate at Kenilworth Racecourse, and in so doing, secured the title of ZATT’s Star of the Week.
Given a masterful ride by Karl Neisius, Capetown Noir was never far from striking distance as he stayed close to the rail after breaking from the inside. As the rail opened up for the stretch run, he shot through and quickly accelerated to a clear lead. A furlong to the wire, the yellow silks of Capetown Noir were in control of the race, but even-money favorite, Jackson was making a strong run. That rally was no match for the winner, though, as he stayed on strongly to hit the wire a convincing 1 ¼ length winner, while giving trainer, Dean Kannemeyer his third triumph in the Queen’s Plate. Jackson finished second, with the fast closing Jet Explorer getting up for third.
A son of the recently deceased former American runner, and South African champion sire, Western Winter (Gone West), Capetown Noir won for the 8th time in 14 lifetime starts. The victory also marked the fourth winner of the Queen’s Plate for his sire.
Of special interest to American race fans, as a “Win and You’re In” race, Capetown Noir secured a spot in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Mile if his connections choose to make the trip to Santa Anita this fall. More immediate travel plans for the four-year-old colt may include a trip to Dubai to compete in either the Godolphin Mile or the Dubai Duty Free on March 29. Before even that, though, Capetown Noir has a major challenge back home on his plate.
The Grade 1 J&B Met, three weeks from now, and also at Kenilworth, is considered the most prestigious race in South Africa. This year’s field is expected to feature the top three finishers from yesterday’s race. Although the 1 1/4 miles of the J&B Met may be a little farther than best for the horse called the best miler in the country by his successful trainer, Capetown Noir did get the job done at the distance in last year’s Grade 1 Cape Derby.