Sun Met 2020: Can Hawwaam keep Vardy and One World from upsetting the apple cart?
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Cape Town's biggest social occasion and the richest race day in Africa, The Sun Met, is upon us and Saturday's big race will decide who is currently South Africa's best racehorse.
At the beginning of the season the "big three", Do It Again, Rainbow Bridge and Hawwaam, were considered to be head and shoulders above the rest of South Africa's equine racing population and the Met was going to be their ultimate showdown.
However, two young pretenders, Vardy and One World, have upset the applecart.
Vardy and One World beat both Rainbow Bridge and Do It Again in the Green Point Stakes in December.
The latter pair "needed it", shouted their fans, and would put the record straight in the prestigious L'Ormarins Queen's Plate.
However, Vardy and One World once again finished first and second and this time they had all of Rainbow Bridge, Do It Again and Hawwaam behind them.
But such is the aura in which the "big three" are held the fans and bookmakers are not yet ready to accept the two pretenders as the best.
Hence, Saturday's race has turned into a mid-season championship and the winner will head to KZN's SA Champions season, which runs from May to the end of July, as the king in waiting.
Hawwaam is the Sun Met favourite. He has the acceleration of a Porsche, effortless but devastating, but can be a bit hot-headed.
Vardy is a cool customer, who relaxes well in the running before producing a breathtaking finishing effort. The analysts believe he will have no problem staying the 2000m distance.
Rainbow Bridge is Hawwaam's half-brother and is also a bit hot-headed. However, that did not stop him winning last year and this year he will be ridden by Englishman Ryan Moore, regarded as the best jockey in the world.
Do It Again is the reigning Equus Horse Of The Year but has not quite been himself this year. Fans will be hoping to see this imposing individual strutting proudly in the parade ring, because whenever he looks as if he owns the racecourse he usually owns the race.
One World is a big and rangy individual who has blossomed this season into a magnificent specimen. There is enough stamina on his mother's side to suggest he will stay the distance.
Twist Of Fate is an unimposing R20 000 purchase who has the heart of a lion and has now earned over R3 million for his owners.
Head Honcho is a big galloper who nearly stole the race from the front last year, although he hasn't had as good a preparation this year.
Bunker Hunt is the dark horse as he has likely not yet showed his best. The glimpses of his best have been impressive and he should be finishing strongly.
Eyes Wide Open beat Do It Again over this course and distance as a three-year-old in the Grade 1 Cape Derby. However, in later seasons he has proven to be just behind the best, although he does have pole position.
Undercover Agent finished a courageous fourth last year. He has been working well lately in a tongue tie and wears it in the race.
Pack Leader was not beaten far in either the Green Point or the Queen's Plate and has his peak run now.
Majestic Mozart and More Magic are decent horses but are up against it in this line up.
The race starts at 17h10 on Saturday and there are many ways to bet on it. Wins and places (must finish in the first three) are the most common bet types, but there are a myriad bet types on the Tote, including swinger (choose two horses to both finish in the first three), exacta (first two in order), trifecta (first three in order), quartet (first four in order), plus there are the exciting exotic bets, the Pick 6, Place Accumulator and Jackpot.
Current betting courtesy of Track & Ball: 18/10 Hawwaam; 3/1 Vardy; 7/2 Rainbow Bridge; 11/2 Do It Again; 12/1 One World; 12/1 Twist of Fate; 25/1 and better BAR.