It looks the standard sand saga of a straight shootout between Sean Tarry and Mike De Kock. That just about sums up the R110 000 Pinnacle Stakes to be run over 1200m on the Vaal sand track on Tuesday, where the two powerhouse outfits overshadow their opposition.
There are many punters who structure their Vaal sand exotic bets by including all of the Tarry and De Kock runners as a starting point, and then adding whatever else their budget permits.
The dominance of the two leading Gauteng yards on this surface is well documented and Tuesday’s mainliner once again paints a picture of the potent imbalance of power. The well weighted Leon Erasmus runner Prime Mover really looks the only horse capable of upsetting the particularly predictable happy ending.
Four classy sorts make up the combined Tarry and De Kock assault on the race, and it is the former that probably holds the upper hand with proven sand campaigners in Mythical Palace and August Stakes winner, Across The Ice
Across The Ice has come into his own as a 6yo on the sand and the son of Western Winter announced his resurgence with a superb win in the August Stakes run over Tuesday’s course and distance.
Admittedly he did have the advantage of the 1 draw and the run of the race under a supremely confident Robbie Fradd there, but things were never in doubt as he glided clear to win by 5,25 lengths from the Bass’ highly-rated Captain’s Secret.
Across The Ice then came out in his main mission, the Gr2 Emerald Cup. He ran a great race to a point – only weakening very late to finish 2,25 lengths behind the winner, Meadow Magic.
Across The Ice was receiving 2kgs from Meadow Magic, and had the likes of sand star Mr Tobin and his opponent here, Prime Mover well behind him.
Prime Mover meets him on level weight terms, and was giving Across The Ice 2,5kgs when beaten over 13 lengths in the Emerald Cup. This is 200m shorter, which may cloud the straight collateral deductions substantially.
Stablemate Mythical Palace is a year younger than Across The Ice, and has impeccable form. He has won four of his last five starts on both surfaces.
The Australian-bred son of Fusaichi Pegasus is a recent course and distance winner and showed his fitness by winning his last start on turf at the beginning of this month.
He won his penultimate start most impressively over this circuit, when giving the capable Kentucky Sheik 6kgs and a two length beating. This is a trifle stronger than an MR 89 Handicap, but Mythical Palace continues to answer every call as he climbs the ladder, and may well be equal to the task.
While untried on the sand, the high quality Australian-bred 4yo Merhee is likely to be the De Kock stable elect.
A winner of two of his four starts, including a dazzling 9,50 length debut victory, he won smoothly and most impressively last Saturday when accounting for the highly rated General Sherman at level weights in a mile Novice Plate.
If producing some of his still untapped turf ability on the sand, Merhee could be the considerable unknown factor and the dark horse to challenge Tarry’s two.
De Kock’s second string is the grey Argentinian-bred Empenoso Henn. An unsound, but talented lightly raced 5yo, he has his first start in over 6 months. He did not impress at his last outing at the track when going off at a fancied 16-10 and dropping out to finish 9,50 lengths behind Mr Tobin.
Empenoso Henn would prefer further, but jumps from a 3 draw and could come out fresh and give some cheek on his best form.
Leon Erasmus sends a three-way coupling to post, headed by the top-rated runner in this race in Prime Mover .
The 6yo gelded son of Mogok is a very capable sort on the sand and looks very well weighted for a big run. While he ran a poor race when running handy and then fading out to finish all of 15 lengths off Meadow Magic in the Emerald Cup last month, his course and distance form is impressive.
Prime Mover is a 1200m sand specialist and a vastly different kettle of fish over Tuesday’s trip.
Erasmus’ other two, Bownore and Revelry look, with all due respect, to be merely making up the numbers here on current form.
The 6yo entire Bownore is a course and distance winner, who has lost his form in recent months. He has shown little since running a cracking third behind Cape Winter in the Autumn Stakes in March. He would be a shock winner.
The one-time winning Silvano gelding Revelry comes in with a paperweight of 50kgs, but is still under sufferance. While a winner on the surface, he looks hopelessly outclassed and in the deep end.
Romeos Reward jumps on the paint and ran a fair race under the lights at Turffontein last time out, when showing good pace to finish 5 lengths behind the top-class Welwitschia. That was his first race in six months, and if the second run-after-a-rest syndrome doesn’t get to him, he could well bank a place cheque.
He can pace it on this surface and showed his sand skills when running out a facile winner over Tuesday’s course and distance, beating Marble Drum by three lengths as a juvenile.
It is worrying that he appears to be plagued by unsoundness issues, and he thus should only be included in the bigger optimistic permutations.
The former Cape Town-based Captain Al gelding Chrysalis is now with the Roy Magner yard.
He started his career with Vaughan Marshall in Milnerton and showed fair ability, winning five races on the turf. He had his first run on the sand for Alec Laird way back on 1 March, before switching yards again.
That first sand effort was a fair attempt, when he showed pace before fading to finish four lengths behind Cape Winter. Chrysalis should need this run after a close on eight month break.
Weighing It Up
We are siding with Sean Tarry to get the upper hand over his old adversary in this particular bout.
Both Across The Ice and Mythical Palace are fit and proven sand protagonists who collectively appear stronger than the unproven, but progressive, Merhee – and the possibly unfit Empenosos Henn, who will need more ground.
If running to his best rating, Leon Erasmus’ soldier Prime Mover could blow all of the big four out of the park at the weights- and we know how he enjoys the 1200m trip, and no further.