Trainer Paul Peter had a goal to try and get Naval Guard into Saturday’s Grade 1 Hollywoodbets Durban July but any chance he had went up in smoke when the four-year-old gelding failed to win the Grade 3 Jubilee Stakes over 1800m on the Standside track at Turffontein.
The son of Elusive Fort was probably a touch unfortunate in that race as he was carried out just as he started to accelerate with his usual finishing burst, ending and he ended up in third place, although finishing just 0.50 lengths behind Puerto Manzano.
Naval Guard will get the opportunity to put the record straight on Sunday when he lines up in Race 6, a Pinnacle Stakes over the same course and distance.
While he is not well weighted under the race conditions, Naval Guard is a lot better than his merit rating of 90 so that is no criterion on which to judge him.
But he will carry just 50kg and with Warren Kennedy back into the irons Naval Guard will take a power of beating.
The runner with the proven record is Bingwa. He has been running in very strong fields and last time finished a 2.45-length sixth in the Grade 1 Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge over 1600m at Greyville.
The Johan Janse van Vuuren-trained gelding may face two problems. The first is that while he has scored one win over 1800m, he is probably at his best over 1600m. However, it is interesting that blinkers have been removed for this race.
The second is that he will have to give 10kg to Naval Guard, and that may not be easy against a horse who is racing over his favourite distance.
But there is no doubting the ability of the four-year-old son of Pathfork and if anything can stop Naval Guard, it is Bingwa.
Kabelo Matsunyane rode him the Gold Challenge last time and has been engaged for this ride.
Once one looks past those two it is wide open. Imperial Master also comes in carrying 50kg but then gets a further 1.5kg allowance courtesy of his apprentice rider.
Sovereign Spirit and Dr Doolittle look the best of the rest.