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MR96 Handicap on Tuesday at Vaal

Kentucky Express - at the top of his game

MR96 Handicap over 1000m at Vaal (sand) on Tuesday

Heading up the four card program in midweek is a MR96 Handicap over 1000m at the Vaal’s sand track on Tuesday. In terms of proven ability, the best horses are of course in the top half of the handicap and with sprinters generally more able to shoulder weight to victory, they could well have it between them, writes Steve Furnish.

Kentucky Express has the highest merit rating in the field and is at the top of his game right now. He’s won two from six over today’s course and distance and was only picked off late by his low flying stable companion Storm Crossing when reported as lame on the off fore last time out. Anthony Delpech retains the ride and if all is now well again, he should be right there.


As well as the probable favourite, trainer Mike De Kock is also represented by the 3yo Worood. She looked to be going places when landing the non black type Sophomore Sprint over today’s trip last September, but since returning from a layoff in March, she has been unable to reach the same heights. She was beaten fair and square when three lengths behind her stable companion in the race won by Storm Crossing last time out and 0,5kg worse off at the weights here, she does look held.

Paul’s Trio

One of four couplings in the event, trainer Paul Matchett. saddles all of Gold Game, Rockingandrolling and Beat Patrol.

At his best on sand, Gold Game ran the course specialist Renegade to three quarters of a length over today’s trip last August. He’s risen some ten points in the handicap since then and his form of late has been a little in and out. Gold Game does return to 1000m here though for the first time since winning a pinnacle event over today’s course and distance in January. He could surprise.

The lightly raced Woodborough gelding Rockingandrolling won his two previous starts at this circuit by a minimum of 9,25 lengths. His two successes were both gained over 1200m, but on each occasion he showed good pace and made all. He’s been off the track for eight months since finishing down field on turf in his latest start and one has to have concerns about his level of fitness. Regular partner Marthinus Mienie does take the ride here though and clearly having plenty of scope for further improvement, this 3yo has to be a very serious runner if ready.

Making up the trio is the veteran Beat Patrol. A runner up in the Gr3 Tommy Hotspur Handicap on turf back in 2009, this 7yo son of Muhtafal has also run some cracking races on sand. He’s without a win in 26 starts now though and unable to finish better than seventh in each of his last four outings, he is not easy to fancy.

Leon’s Three

Leon Erasmus’ charge does usually find one better on sand as his tally of just one win from 14 starts on the surface would attest. He’s as consistent as they come in terms of ratings though and when gaining his only win over today’s trip back in October, he did have Kentucky Express some three and a quarter lengths behind him on just 1kg more favourable terms than they meet today.

Although the filly Blingle Bells only rarely manages to find the winner’s enclosure, she has put in some very useful performances at this circuit, most notably when finishing a runner up to the speedy Mannequin in the listed Banyana Handicap and when recently landing the non black type Summer Speedsters Stakes over 1000m here in February. She could make the frame if at her best.

More often than not seen out on turf, Benbow has been well below best in his three most recent starts. He’s never the quickest into stride and although he has run some fair races over today’s course and distance, he does look up against it here.

Barend’s Bid

With August Eight being in under sufferance on his return from a six month break here, the best of trainer Barend Botes’ two runners must surely be Gangsta Fury. He’s been a little below best in his most recent outings over further, but he did run Kentucky Express to just three quarters of a lengths in his latest start over today’s trip in February. He’s now 0,5kg better off at the weights with Mike De Kock’s charge and has to be a very serious runner if putting his best foot forward.


A winner of three of his seven previous starts over today’s course and distance, the 6yo Valloire has come to hand nicely since returning from a five month layoff in February. He kept on determinedly when beating both Gangsta Fury and the subsequent Highveld Sand Challenge winner Burmese Cat over 1200m here last time out and he does now have his third run after the rest. He’s also gets 4kg taken off his back with in form apprentice Denise Lee in the saddle and must hold some kind of a chance.


More accustomed to taking on weaker, Wallace Tolmay’s charge has battled to make his presence felt when venturing into this league and having been well beaten in that pinnacle event won by Storm Crossing last time out, he does seem very unlikely.

Indecent Obsession

Rated eleven points higher than today’s mark by the official handicapper just seven runs back, the former Natal campaigner Indecent Obsession is yet to race on sand. He has his third run since relocating to Gauteng here and if taking to the surface, could upset.

About The Pace

They usually go a fair clip over 1000m at this circuit and with thirteen set to go to post, that should certainly be the case again here. Although Kentucky Express is clearly not the soundest of characters, he does go particularly well at this circuit and currently at the top of game is taken to gain his fifth career win.

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