Punters face a difficult card on the Vaal Classic course tomorrow but as the cliché states, ‘the bigger the risk, the greater the reward’. And it’s not going to get any easier in the future as mid-week meetings have been cut to eight races on the Highveld, a move that is especially likely to see the lower division races filled to capacity.
Heading the Vaal card is the International Jockey’s Challenge 16 November Pinnacle Stakes where backers are again faced with the dilemma of ability as opposed to race ready.
Rebel’s Champ, an accomplished sprinter in the top echelons, is well in at the weights in this five-furlong dash in spite of being lumbered with 61.5kg, the rider being that Paul Peter’s charge has not been out since early May when down the field in the Gr1 Computaform Sprint.
In his day, Rebel Champ would be a confident choice, and with Warren Kennedy aboard, he must still be the preferred runner of the Peter trio, but he will not have things all his own way.
Veteran galloper Talktothestars rarely has a month off but is tough as nails and with the handicappers giving him some relief in the ratings, he has come good again, winning over course and distance last time out in spite of casting a shoe.
A 10-1 chance in the ante-post market, Connie De Beers soldier has ability, fitness and 4kg claimer Yuzae Ramzan in the plus column and although he takes on considerably stronger opposition than in recent outings, he is a proven Gr 1 galloper.
Pire Strydom teams up with Mike and Adam Azzie’s Down To Zero, a gelding who also has recent races under his girth so should not be short of a gallop and a must inclusion in all calculations.
Mike de Kock and Sean Tarry take the wraps off two fillies bred in the purple in the opening leg of the Pick 6 where Riqaaby and Cosmic Ray are up against some fairly modest opposition.
The odds-makers have not taken any chances, marking them up as first and second favourites respectively, although 28-10 and 3-1 are not cramped odds. The fully exposed Zodiac Pearl, and probably short-priced favourite had these two not been in the race, is third favourite at 7-2 with Madox Tune (8-1) the only other runner quoted in single figures.
The fourth is something of a guessing game with a number of runners in with chances. Slay The Dragon was narrowly beaten at his last start and is seldom far back while Jagesa Jagesa came from well back to win his latest and although second-placed pacemaker Rocky Path is now 1.5kg better off he may not be able to turn the tables.
De Kock could have pulled off a master stroke with Bold Ellie in the sixth. Still a maiden, she has had two warm-up sprints and judged on pedigree, should much prefer this trip in what is not a strong field.
In the seventh, top weight Destiny’s Game has not been out of the money in her last five starts and can go one better in this small field although she will face strong opposition from the likes of Shivers, Elusive Butterfly and Sammi Moosa who are all evenly matched.
Lone Survivor and Tierra Del Fuego are at the top of the ante-post boards for the last but 33-10 does not inspire much confidence. However, Lone Survivor has been in mustard form and goes well over this trip and has the benefit of a good draw. Tierra Del Fuego has been rested. He won an Assessment Plate last start but rarely runs a poor race. Big Blue Marble has dumped many of his supporters after two disappointing recent efforts when well fancied but the step up in trip may be what he is looking for. Tricky draw but he may be worth another chance.
By Andrew Harrison