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De Kock holds all the aces in Empress Stakes

Preview: South Africa, Friday

Turffontein: L Jaffee Empress Club Stakes (Grade 1) 1m, turf, 3yo+ f/m

Mike de Kock, bidding to win this for the fifth time in eight seasons, holds a particularly strong hand with the first three in the market.

Festival Of Fire (Robbie Fradd),  part-owned by Lady Chryss O'Reilly and the only three-year-old in the field, is 6-4 favourite with local firm Betting World. She finished a close-up fifth in the Cape Fillies Guineas and won a minor conditions race over this course last time.

Amur Affair (Anton Marcus), beaten only three and a half lengths when sixth in the Grade 1 Horse Chestnut Stakes, and Ilha Bela (Anthony Delpech) are both 3-1 shots. Ilha Bela has won two of her last three over a furlong further than this.

There is considerable confidence behind the Cape Town raider Thunder Dance (Brett Crawford/Karis  Teetan) despite two below par performances on her last two starts when she was affected by a wind problem. She won last year's Grade 1 Paddock Stakes and is officially the best horse in the field.

Crawford said: "Theoretically the higher altitude [6,000 feet] won't help because the air is thinner but she has been here seven weeks and is fully acclimatised.

"She has been doing well and I am very happy with her. She put up a good gallop last Friday and I am expecting a really competitive run."

Teetan, who rode her in that gallop, added: "She went really well and she was the best I've ever known her."

 
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