I’ve been off for quite a number of weeks over the last two months so in order to prolong my career and keep up doing a professional job I took time off to get rid of the wear-and-tear issues.
I returned on Thursday and I was happy I had managed to keep up the necessary fitness. But what pleased me even more is that I didn’t feel all those aches and pains that had been worrying me.
So it was clearly a good decision as we have a long season coming up and I’ve been very lucky Mike and Adam Azzie have been quite supportive during the time I was off and hopefully we can form a winning team during the summer. Luckily I have a couple of other yards who have always backed me and I can also lean on them.
After I rode on Thursday what I was not pleased about was the state of the going on the Vaal tracks. I’ve ridden all over the world and it is not often we have to deal with tracks so firm and cut up, and that can’t be good for the horses.
The dry winters are naturally to blame for the conditions. On the Highveld we have a bit of a Catch 22 situation where you want the moisture in order to be kind to the horses’ legs but if you do get rain in the winter the tracks get badly cut up with no chance of repairing. We leave divots on the track and have to wait until the summer rains start and the management have an opportunity to sort it out.
I’ve heard people say the Polytrack is “cheap” racing but I’m in favour of a Polytrack because in the winter we would have a consistent racing surface as you have a minimum of divots, a flat, even surface and a track that is a lot kinder to the horses.
The other advantage is during the summer when you have heavy rains you can move to the Polytrack which means we would not lose a meeting unless it is called off because of lightning.
A Polytrack would get us through winter, bad weather and solve all our problems. Every jockey I have spoken to only has praise for the Poly.
There are some trainers who have said they have less soundness issues but I can only speak from a jockey’s point of view.
Today we race on the Inside track at Turffontein and we kick off with a Maiden Plate where no horses have inspiring form. It doesn’t matter how uninspiring the form, there will always be a winner and my first choice is Miesque’s Rumba. His danger is probably the filly, Pocahontas Girl, and Discoverer.
Race 2 is another Maiden Plate and again it looks quite tricky. I think the horse with the most potential is Think Twice. Last time she was well beaten but not a lot went her way. However, based on her first run, she definitely has the form to win.
For the BiPot you might also have to consider Rolled Silver as backup.
Race 3 is another Maiden Plate and also looks quite competitive. Of the form horses I would lean towards Artax, Over Easy and Imperial Ounce.
The jockey room talk is that my ride, Greek Fire, shows very good work but the concern is that he is running on the Inside track first time out which is not easy. If he jumps out even a little bit slowly he will end up at the back of the field and battle to make it up in the short straight.
For the Place Accumulator it might be wise to follow the betting as there are some unraced horses but experience is a huge advantage and I would lean towards the three raced horses mentioned.
Race 4 is another Maiden and again there are a number of unraced horses and even though they might show ability at home, inexperience might be their undoing. Jockey room talk is that Galactic Warrior is a nice sort so we can lean towards him. For the PA we will go for experience and a good draw so include Red Indy.
For the Pick 6 Red Indy should get you through because if he gets beaten it will in all likelihood be by a first-timer and that will make no difference.
Race 5 is a handicap over 1000m. It looks highly competitive and almost every horse has a winning chance. For the Pick 6 the field should be taken. My first selection is Cathedral County as he is lightly raced and is a good-looking individual. His danger is Isphan whose form of late has been very good. He’s always had ability but soundness issues held him back so the stable did a great job to get him right.
For the PA you could add in Alpine Glacier and maybe Gimmethemoney who is drawn No 1 and tends to hang to the right so this will help him negotiate the track comfortably.
I ride Angel’s Power but his merit rating has been climbing steadily and this could be his undoing.
Include anything else you may like as this is a tough race.
Race 6 is another handicap over 1000m and it is not easy to favour three-year-olds as two weeks ago they were still two years old, but a horse with a lot of potential could be Secret Harbour. He won in good style first time out, and last time he ran against strong opposition. He looks a horse with potential and with Gunter Wrogemann in top form he is my PA banker and could be a Pick 6 banker because if you look past him, any of the others could win.
I ride Hyperactive who is also lightly raced but the concern is that he has raced over 1200m and 1400m respectively and is now coming back to 1000m over a fast track with a bad draw to overcome. He might just have too many hurdles to deal with.
Race 7 is another handicap but there are a couple of horses who could have strong enough form so one could cut down in the exotics. The horses I think should fight it out are Runalong, She’s A Dragon and High Seas Beauty. Pick two for the PA and all three for the Pick 6.
Other possibilities are Shatoosh and Snowdonia.
Race 8 is another handicap and here I’m riding the promising Full Mast. He has to be a huge runner as he has raced over the track before and has a good draw. What has to be against him is that two weeks ago he was a juvenile and now he’s running against some hard knockers over 1800m.
It is difficult to predict whether he is strong enough to handle the distance against older horses. Hopefully he is good enough to beat this field but if this is a step too early the dangers could be Dawnbreaker and the value horse, Artemisia.
Those are the runners for both the PA and Pick 6
Race 9 is a competitive fillies’ handicap and has a lot of horses with similar form. It might be wise to lean towards the good draws. My first selection and value bet is Monarch Air. She has dropped quite a bit in the merit ratings and she has the benefit of a good draw. In the past she has had bad draws and has had to be placed a lot further back than she would have liked. Hopefully this time she could have the run of the race.
The dangers are September Bloom, Subtle Force and Rose Water.
Those four could suffice both the PA and the Pick 6.