Horses / Columnists

Piere Strydom
7 minute read
7 Oct 2017
5:25 am

Jury out on Vaal draw bias

Piere Strydom

New Predator, Matador Man weighted to fight it out

TART VITAL. Matador Man has to be a contender for the Grade 2 Joburg Spring Challenge but cannot afford to give away ground at the start. Picture: JC Photographics

We have now finally had some decent rain, to the extent that we lost a meeting on Thursday.

We forgo these meetings with a heavy heart because it is a case of no work, no pay for jockeys, but you have to realise it is the right decision to abandon as we are in such a dangerous sport and if something does go wrong we could all regret the decision to race.

So while we feel the pinch in our pockets it is less than the feeling of finding yourself in a dangerous situation where you try and get out of the heavy going, hoping nothing will go wrong.

From both a riding and punters’ point of view a lot can change now as some horses handle a soft track as they are more stamina prone.

Your speed horses will be disadvantaged as they can get away on a firm track and stay in front while now you’d rather support a horse who will stay on, rather than one who has speed and will tire.

The final issue to look at with the wetter tracks is if there is a particular bias. I have ridden on tracks that are rock hard and in that case there should not be a bias but people persist in going to the same side.

For instance, on Grand Heritage day at the Vaal last week I rode Arctica in the main race which was drawn hard-up against the outside fence. Obviously I was hoping that as was the case in last year’s race, the outside going would be superior to the inside.

Unfortunately the horses I rode early on were not really good enough to allow me to judge where the better going would be.

For the rest of the day no one had really tried to go to the outside so one didn’t really know which was the better side.

Arctica took on a much stronger field than he had previously raced against and since he was drawn on the outside fence I felt I had little option but to stay where I was, as in the past it had been where the better going was and during the day nobody had proven otherwise.

It is always nicer to have other horses race close to you to give you some company but in hindsight I’m still not convinced the outside was inferior as all the horses drawn near me, bar one horse, did not produce anything even though they moved to the inside.

In addition, my form line put me close to Trading Profit and Amazing Strike and yet we beat them both by around six lengths in the Grand Heritage.

For those who happen to think the going is not good on the outside we will see in the future. Where would I have found myself had I tried to move over with 28 horses – on the inside in the ‘so-called’ better going, or still with 27 horses on my inside?

Racing is on the Inside track at Turffontein today and with the rain the only time the going might be different is when we come off the false rail and head to the finishing line.

If the track really gets cut up you try to avoid the inside rail as that is where the majority of horses race and cut up the track.

Race 1 is a Maiden Plate and there are a few with form. But my best bet for the day is Harlan County. He raced on this track last time and had a bad draw. So with a better draw and course experience, everything is in his favour. The dangers could be Finding Troy and Stay With Me.

Race 2 is a difficult Maiden Plate but the two I prefer are Holiday Romance and Tigerlace. However, Magical Charm and Angelic could improve on their debut runs so take Swingers.

Race 3 is another Maiden Plate in which the runners have low merit ratings and most have had many chances.

I suggest you include as many as you can in the Place Accumulator but as it is a small field I would consider Michael and Discoverer as your two main horses. Their dangers are Reminiscence and my ride, Escamillo.

Escamillo has had some soundness issue and hopefully this soft track will help him. I believe he is quite lazy so blinkers might help but it always concerns me when a horse wears blinkers for the first time over 2600m because he could pull and end up running last.

Race 4 is a Pinnacle Stakes which favours higher rated runners. Unfortunately this is a bit trickier than that as there are plenty with chances. My first selection is Peggy Jay, who has the highest rating but it is hard to be confident as she was well beaten in her last two starts, although over distances short of her best.

The danger is Bondiblu, who although well out at the weights last time still managed to win so she could still be underrated. I would put those two in the PA with the addition of Okavango Delta. He had issues last time and was only beaten just over a length. He would have come on with the run and his fitness would have improved.

For the Pick 6 the field could easily be included.

Race 5 is a Fillies’ Handicap but it becomes quite tricky as every horse has a theoretical winning chance. The two on the upgrade, however, are Sylvan On Fire and Cascapedia.

Those two should be good enough for the Pick 6 but for the PA I’m leaning towards Sylvan On Fire as she ran in stronger company and as it was a Pinnacle Stakes could only get a maximum penalty of 3kg.

Cascapedia, though, has won both her starts, has a good draw and must have further room for improvement.

Race 6 is a the Joburg Fillies And Mares Spring Challenge and the winner should come from She’s A Giver and Bella Sonata who have been racing against a lot stronger.

Unfortunately their fitness is unknown as they have not raced for a couple of months.

The unknown horse is Rockin Russian who has just turned three but has a tough task against those who have taken on the best in the country.

I ride Secret Star who might find it tough in this field, especially as she has a wide draw and will be trying the distance for the first time.

Any advice from the experts out there on how I should ride this filly?

For the Pick 6 if Bella Sonata and She’s A Giver are not your choice you will need to include as many as you can. For the PA I will stick with the two class horses.

Race 7 is the Joburg Spring Challenge which is a plate race and the best handicapped horses should fight it out. I’ll stay with that tried and trusted formula in this case and the top two are New Predator and Matador Man.

Both are coming off rests but Matador Man has a habit of losing ground at the start which he can’t afford to do that over this track and trip. That is why I’m leaning towards New Predator as a PA banker. Add Matador Man into the Pick 6 and possibly Will Pays as he is the proven fit horse in the field.

Race 8 is a competitive Fillies’ Handicap so for the Pick 6 you could include the field if your pocket allows. For the PA consider Musette and Blue Sage. We will include Miss Bulsara in the Pick 6 who won a maiden with ease last time.

Race 9 is another tricky race but my first selection is Flying Fable who won her second start with ease. Unfortunately she is coming off a rest and trying further. My next selection is Just My Style who also won a maiden at her second start and then ran in a feature and was beaten just 4.65 lengths.

She could have enough class to beat the field but is coming off a rest and has the worst of the draws.

So you might have to include the older horses who are my ride, Comme-Si-Comme-Sa, and Oh My Darling.

Pick three for the PA and for the Pick 6 if those four are not good enough then consider the field.

Jockey Piere Strydom celebrates after riding Madame Dubois to a win in the HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco Starling Stakes, 31 October 2015, on the Charity Mile race day at Turffontein Racecourse. Picture: Michel Bega

Jockey Piere Strydom celebrates after riding Madame Dubois to a win in the HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco Starling Stakes, 31 October 2015, on the Charity Mile race day at Turffontein Racecourse. Picture: Michel Bega