PIERRE Jourdan and all of his serious challengers stood their ground and the R1,5million SA Derby is heading for a thrilling climax on Champions Day at Turffontein.
Gary Alexander's runner is looking to rewrite the record books when he lines up for the Grade 1 race over 1450m on Saturday by becoming only the second horse in history to win the Sascoc Triple Crown.
In February he won the Gauteng Guineas and last month the SA Classic to give him the first two legs.
Derreck David rode him to victory in both of those starts and has never lost a race on the son of Parade Leader.
Pierre Jourdan has won six of his seven starts and was beaten only a short head by Havasha in the race he lost.
The Grade 1 SA Derby is one of eight graded races to be run on the day and it includes the Champions Challenge (G1) over 2000m and the Computaform Sprint (G1) over 1000m.
Most people rate Mike de Kock's Irish Flame as the runner capable of stopping Pierre Jourdan's bid for greatness.
While there may be stamina doubts about the Triple Crown-seeking runner, the distance should prove no problem for Irish Flame.
De Kock also has another out-and-out stayer in the form of Ilsanpietro as well as Happy Valley, who ran a positive fourth over 2400m at the Vaal on Thursday.
Mike Azzie has Service Ace who should be looking for this distance, while one needs to keep an eye on Charles Laird's Conquered Dream, a talented stayer in the making.
Jockey Kevin Shea will return to ride Rudra in the R2million Champions Challenge over 2000m. Shea was in the irons when Rudra won the Summer Cup over his course and distance and it comes as no surprise that De Kock has engaged him once again.
As indicated earlier, De Kock has withdrawn Mother Russia and will aim her at the Vodacom Durban July. That leaves Rudra as the only stable representative.
Champion trainer Charles Laird will be hoping Smart Banker will be able to pull off the double.
He won the race last year and under the weight-for-age plus penalties conditions, carries the same weight as last year. He is beautifully drawn at No 3 and has Anton Marcus up.
The Computaform Sprint sets up a mouthwatering clash between Warm White Night, last year's champion Private Jet and 2007 winner Mythical Flight.
Trainer Lucky Houdalakis has decided JJ The Jet Plane will not be fully wound up in time for the race and has pulled him out.
Sean Tarry has also withdrawn his top-class filly Mana Mou from the race.