Anybody who was at the Vaal on Saturday saw why Anthony Delpech is rated one of the best jockeys in the country.
His two winners – Doing It For Dan and Ahlaam – were the result of some brilliantly opportunistic riding, while, even in defeat, his mounts were given the best possible rides.
Delpech returns to the Vaal today when he will be riding exclusively for the Mike de Kock yard, and he could cash in with another couple of winners.
He has five rides on the eight-race card and all of them have varied degrees of a winning chance. The best look to be Suyoof in Race 1 and Neptune’s Jewel in Race 3 but he could also bring home Foyle in Race 5, a MR 92 Handicap over 1400m.
The five-year-old Tiger Ridge gelding has been very disappointing and after he won his second start at a race track very few pundits would have expected him to be only a two-time winner at this stage of his career.
But De Kock could have found the ideal race for him in this event down the Vaal straight. There are some really good horses in the line-up but many of them are either coming back from a layoff while others could find the trip too short and, in some cases, both would apply.
Foyle comes into this event with just 53kg on his back and he is fit. In his last start he looked all over a winner going into the closing stages of a MR 86 Handicap over 1400m at Turffontein but was run out of it close home to finish a 0.80-length third behind National Key.
He carries 3kg less in this event and he is likely to prefer this quicker Vaal turf 1400m. He is drawn No 3 which is not great as the outside draws are preferable but there are only 12 runners so the draw might not be too much of a disaster.
Trainer Geoff Woodruff has two decent runners in The Captain’s Tune and Master ‘N Commander. The former has not raced since April, when he finished a 0.60-length second behind Rushmore River, who is also in this line-up, over 1600m in the soft going at Turffontein.
Master ‘N Commander last raced on the Vaal sand in a MR 85 Handicap over 1800m at the end of July. Most of Woodruff’s runners had their African Horse Sickness injections in August and most of them appear to be in need of a run.
Both are likely to find 1400m a touch sharp although one has to respect that Woodruff has Piere Strydom aboard The Captain’s Tune and champion jockey Gavin Lerena on Master ‘N Commander.
Perhaps a bigger threat to Foyle could be Burg, trained by Ormond Ferraris. He was 0.30 lengths ahead of Foyle in the race won by National Key and is also carrying 3kg less. He did not perform too badly when beaten six lengths by Mitraad in a strong Pinnacle Stakes over 1450m on the inside track.
He wore blinkers on that occasion but they did not seem to benefit him and they have now been removed. Weichong Marwing is carded to ride Burg.
Then there is Rushmore River who is also likely to find the distance a bit sharp but does have good early pace and will be having his first start since returning from Zimbabwe, where he raced in the Grade 3 Republic Cup on 12 July. Joey Soma’s charge was beaten 4.30 lengths by Equina.
Callan Murray has the ride but as he rode his 60th winner at the Vaal on Saturday he will no longer be able to claim an apprentice allowance.