Vardy on track for Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge

PUBLISHED: 18 June 2020

Vardy (Liesl King)

Vardy, 5-2 favourite for Sunday week’s Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge, has come on considerably since his reappearance third in the Independent On Saturday Drill Hall Stakes according to Adam Marcus.

The Milnerton trainer, based at Summerveld for most of the KZN season, said on Wednesday: “His Drill Hall run might have looked a little disappointing at first glance but it had been so difficult to plan preparations for these horses without knowing when racing was going to continue. He hadn’t had a racecourse gallop and was going into the Drill Hall off one grass gallop at Summerveld and some sand work. Also he had never been on a clockwise turn.

Vardy (Liesl King)
Vardy (Liesl King)

“He was a little bit above himself on the day and he travelled a bit hard which is not like him – he usually comes from further back. The race did him the world of good and he has responded to it exceptionally well. He has tightened up beautifully and so far his preparation has been very good.”

Craig Zackey again has the mount on the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate winner at Hollywoodbets Greyville while Donovan Dillon will partner stable companion Twist Of Fate.

This represents a change of plan for last year’s Vodacom Durban July third as Marcus had planned to keep him away from the big weight-for-age races in his build-up to the July.

He explained: “In the WSB Cup Trial he was going to be handicapped out of it because several of the higher-rated horses are running in the Gold Challenge and, although he is looking for more ground than a mile, I feel he needs another run under his belt before the big one.”

Missisippi Burning is second favourite for the 1 400m Tibouchina on Sunday week but the WSB Cape Fillies Guineas and KZN Fillies Guineas winner is also second favourite for the Woolavington 2000 on the same card – and she may not run in either race!

Marcus explained: “She is drawn wide (17) in the Tibouchina so that is doubtful and, while we are still making a final decision, my gut feeling is that 2 000m is too far for her.

“She has done us proud and she owes us nothing so I want to put her in races where I know it’s the correct distance and things are in her favour. She is KZN-bred so the KZN Breeders Million Mile on July 19 could be a possibility.

Friday is an important day for Grant van Niekerk as the licencing board is to meet to consider his application for the renewal of his South African licence.

According to the sahorseracing website he will not be able to resume until August 1 but he could be back quite soon if all goes well on Friday.

He has already been given a clearance letter by the Hong Kong Jockey Club who dismissed him in early April following a domestic dispute on Jockey Club property. As he has since explained himself, and apologised, on social media he will be anxious to put this episode behind him and resume race-riding as soon as possible.

He had been doing particularly well in Hong Kong at the time, was fifth on the log with 37 winners and was becoming much in demand with local owners and trainers.  

By Michael Clower