There is something much more appealing to races over ground than the helter-skelter of a five-furlong dash. Sprint races, and they are by far the majority, have their place and for punters where only the numbers count, the sooner the race is over the better.
Tactics and the nuances of the different tracks are more in play in staying races and if there were more races for horses blessed with stamina rather than precocious speed, racing would be the better for it.
The Track & Ball Pinnacle Stakes over 2400m on the Hollywoodbets Greyville Turf on Sunday is a chance for stayers to earn a decent cheque for their often, long-suffering owners.
Silver Rose has to give plenty of pudding to his seven rivals but the now seven-year-old has an exemplary staying record, having won seven races, and looks primed for this event.
Byron Forster, KZN assistant to Cape-based Andre Nel, has planned the gelding’s programme to peak in this event after finishing four lengths back to Roy Had Enough in the Track & Ball Derby at Hollywood Bets Scottsville back in June.
Two pipe openers over a mile and 1900m should have brought him close to a peak for this race over a distance that the gelding excels.
Obvious dangers are Jack Of Hearts and Paths Of Victory. The latter stays well and Gareth van Zyl will have been well pleased with his last effort behind Blackball in the Michaelmas Handicap where he finished two lengths ahead of Silver Rose behind his father’s runner.
However, this time around, Silver Rose is 4kg better off in the weights which could be the difference between the two.
Jack Of Hearts is a promising stayer who has only recently come into his own, having won three of his last five starts and placing in the other two for Garth Puller. Apprentice Jabu Jacobs rode an enterprising front-running race in his penultimate start and Thabiso Gumede took full advantage of his 4kg claim for King Of Hearts to score again at his next start. Jacobs is back aboard with his 4kg claim but will need to be as sharp this time around.
Likely to be at long odds is the nine-year-old Crime Victim. Never finishing too far back in his races, it has been a long time since Duncan Howells’s charge visited the winner’s box. Crime Victim may be hard-pressed to win here but cannot be written off lightly given the weights. He was beaten eight lengths at level weights by Jack Of Hearts last time out and is now 6 kg better off with his rival, taking apprentice allowances into account.
The Van Zyl’s, father and son, have a stranglehold on the second where between them they saddle five of the seven runners, four by Gavin and one by Gareth.
Blackball was a comfortable winner of the Michaelmas Handicap over course and distance after returning from a break. He is fairly well treated in the weights and probably rates the one to beat. However, his filly Railtrip is smart and has been tested with some distinction against the best of her generation. She has shown up well in two starts since returning from a break and with a handy weight could make things hot for her stable companion. The Dazzler is 1.5kg better off at the weights with Blackball in what was his third outing for his new stable and Gareth has engaged the wily Anton Marcus. Tactics could play a big part in the outcome.
By Andrew Harrison