Piere Strydom
7 minute read
30 Aug 2014
11:00 am

Sand raiders must be prepared

Piere Strydom

We are approaching the start of the Highveld feature season and the first race that comes to mind is the Grade 2 Emerald Cup which is now worth R1-million.

Picture: Thinkstock

With all the money on offer it will be interesting to see which trainers will raid the meeting.

Those who think they can just come up for the race and expect to win could be in for quite a shock. Racing on the Vaal sand is quite an adaption for these horses. Firstly, your horse needs to have natural speed; secondly you hope your horse doesn’t slip or stumble out the gates; and thirdly the horse will have to contend with quite a lot of kick back if not able to get up handy.

It is a big advantage for any runner to have experience on the sand. Some people might compare the Vaal sand to the Polytrack but there is no comparison as the Vaal is a lot deeper and a lot looser. What could be a big factor in today’s meeting at the course is that we have 10 races and after each race the track gets looser as they first have to rake the track, then water it and then use quite a heavy roller to compact it.

After every race the sand becomes looser and the divots become deeper so to sort that out you have to rake it deeper. By the time you get to the last couple of races it is obviously no fun for the jockeys nor the horses.

To put it in a nutshell, horses are powerful animals and their hooves kick up the sand at such a force into your body as you lean forward. That is why horses will sometimes not produce the same form as there is a big difference racing in the clear and having to deal with huge kickback at speed.

For the future it would be quite nice to have a Polytrack as there are a lot more advantages. We can see the benefits in both Port Elizabeth and Durban where race meetings, which might have had to be abandoned, can be rescued on the Polytrack.
The comments from jockeys who have ridden on the two Polytracks have all been positive. I have not heard one criticism of the surface.

Today’s meeting is on the Vaal sand and in Race 1 I’m riding Dawn Day. She’s held on form by Spiaggia on two runs but we are drawn better which means we can run into the money. There is a first timer, Wolverina, who has been backed and the Corne Spies stable are quite accurate when they support their unraced runners. However, the horse who I think is worth a bet is Hvar. She ran fifth in her only start, which was on the sand, and it was quite a competitive race. With the experience under the belt she should make quite a lot of improvement.

Race 2 is over 1200m and the draw is vital. I’m riding first timer Take A Hike. He has a bad draw and he’s drifted so I’m not sure what to expect. There has been money for some first timers so you have to take note of that but I think one can make money on a horse who has experience on the sand and a good draw – and that is Green Rock.

As I mentioned a few weeks back – and it paid dividends – you could be able to make your money on the first two races and that could see you through the rest of the meeting.

Race 3 is the first leg of the Place Accumulator and I’m riding Just A Thought. He has a bad draw and poor form so I’m not expecting much.

There’s not much form to get excited about so a first timer should win this. As there has been money for Geoff Woodruff’s Starcraft Prince, I think in this field it could be worth making him a banker.

Race 4 is the opening leg of the Pick 6 and even though it’s a small field the race is competitive. The two who should fight it out are Isphan and Precursor. I would pick one of the two to banker in the PA and put both in the Pick 6. The only other two who could upset are Topostwego and Atso Time if you want to go wider.

Race 5 is a fillies’ race and they have all had a lot of chances but I have cut it down to Sausalito Bay and Go Dutch. A lot of other horses have bad draws and these two should be good enough for the PA and Pick 6.

I’m riding Jade Vine and amazingly there is money for her. Even though she has placed she has been well beaten – and she doesn’t have a good enough draw.

In Race 6 I’m riding Sarasota. Sadly, she is also not that well drawn and I’m hoping she can place. My first choice is Flame Cat. She hasn’t run on the sand but I believe she works well on the surface and is drawn well.

She could be a banker if she handles the surface but maybe it would be safer to include Secret Mogok in the PA, despite her bad draw. One to consider for the Pick 6 is She’s A Stunner because she’s run against some top fillies.

Race 7 is the August Stakes and I’m riding Across The Ice. Under normal circumstance I would have given him some sort of chance but on a course and distance where the draw is vital, I would be quite surprised if he can win a race like this from No 12 draw.

My two main fancies are Killua Castle and Isobar. Killua Castle might struggle over the shorter distance but he has blinkers on for the first time and that might help. But the horse who has everything in his favour, including jumping from pole position, is Isobar. I will banker him in the PA.

He could even be a Pick 6 banker but as Midnight Run and Foyle are unknown quantities and   could improve, they need to go in the Pick 6.

Another to consider is Anger. He is drawn well and has won his last four starts but there is a question of the distance. He should be included in bigger Pick 6s.

In Race 8 I’m riding Negev. She’s taking on the colts so she will need to improve to beat these horses but I’m hoping for a place.

The distance last time was too short for Nigel Mansell but his runs before that were super impressive. He could be a banker but others to consider are Lavender Landscape and Capricorn Ridge.

Lavender Landscape has only had one run on the surface but was racing over a distance too short for him and was badly drawn. He now gets another 2.5kg off his back.

Capricorn Ridge has not run on the surface while Samogan has a chance but has a tendency to overrace so over this distance he might be found out.

The two horses with sand form in Race 9 are Miss K and Nightingale Grey. Those two could be good enough for the PA but the horse who could beat them all and has the strongest form in the race is Semra. She is untried on the surface but if she does handle it she could win it quite easily.

For the bigger players you could include Terra Marianna as I did mention in her previous run that the shorter distance and wide draw were a disadvantage and she ran accordingly.

Race 10 is over 1200m and by this stage we hope we won’t be slipping and sliding on the sand. I’m riding Shepherd’s Song who has a bad draw but the horse who has shortened in the betting is Dreamuponadream although he has not run on the sand. I think the horse who could beat them all if he gets in is King’s Wild but at this stage he’s still a reserve runner.