Circle In The Sand

Computaform Express Pinnacle Stakes at Vaal on Monday

La Volta

Lightning Fast. Var’s super sand speed machine La Volta could go all the way at the Vaal on Monday

Supreme sand racing will be the focus of attention for the next couple of months as we build up to Africa’s richest race on that surface on 28 September. Berths are always at a premium for the Emerald Cup and with current form a naturally dominant yardstick, the marginals will be looking to make a case for their inclusion.

The R115 000 Computaform Express Pinnacle Stakes to be run over 1000m at the Vaal on Monday has attracted a competitive field of eleven quickies.

Regular

Sean Tarry’s classy Western Winter gelding Across The Ice is an Emerald Cup regular, and the optimistic view might be that he is set for his peak assault on the big race this year. That conclusion is drawn from the simple fact that he ran fifth in 2011 and took a step up to fourth last year in the big sand race.

This sprint will be an integral stepping stone to keeping Across The Ice on the boil(for want of a better word) for that commitment in seven weeks time and he stands out as the genuine class horse in the race. Across The Ice is a seasoned campaigner and has won 8 of his 45 starts to date.

He ran a rather flat race on the turf last time but won his penultimate outing in great style over the Vaal sand 1200m. He is a course and distance winner and will be ridden by the full of confidence S’manga Khumalo. On the ratings, he looks just about unstoppable.

Speed Surplus

There is a lot of speed for the 7yo to contend with though and chief amongst his adversaries is the Leon Erasmus trained Benbow. One of a three way coupling, the speedy Bezrin gelding is something of a course and distance specialist, and much like Across The Ice, is not the same horse on turf.

He ran a below par effort on the grass last time out, but only needs to repeat his penultimate effort over the course and distance, when beating Across The Ice by 2,25 lengths. He is now 1,5 kgs worse off with Across The Ice and there should not be too much between them.

Power Team

His stablemate, the Var Gold Rush Sprint winner Nice Stride, has his first run on the sand. It is worth respecting the son of Imperial Stride, as he hails from the yard of one of the best conditioners of winners on this surface in the astute Leon Erasmus. The third of the Erasmus trio is course and distance winner, Mogok’s Desire. The 4yo is 2, 5kgs better off with Napoleon Dynamite for a 4,50 length beating in the course and distance Lightning Stakes.

All That Azz

Mike Azzie’s Var coupling of La Volta and Gabronza will have their followers. The Var progeny perform well on both surfaces, but when they are quick on this ground, they are very difficult to peg back. The bolt of grey lightning, La Volta, runs for Robbie Fradd, and showed tremendous toe to win her last start beating Howhighcanufly by two lengths.

La Volta carried topweight there and drops considerably in the scale, although obviously against stronger. She is also 5, 5 kgs better off with Benbow on her previous run, when she was 3,50 lengths behind the Erasmus runner. Gabronza won his maiden over the course and distance with ease under a hands and heels ride, and then followed up immediately over the same trip in a lowly handicap. He hung badly at his last start, and if the Azz Wizard has sorted his problem out, he could bounce back here.

Blinkers On

Napoleon Dynamite

Revival. Lightning Stakes winner Napoleon Dynamite showed a glimmer of a return to form last time

Romeo Francis saddles Funny Glory and Romeo’s Reward. Both appear to have lost form in recent times, but the shrewd Mr Francis engages the services of two 4kg capable claiming apprentices. Funny Glory appeals in particular, as he is very fast and gets a set of blinkers, which could make all the difference. Kum Naidoo sends out Cape Winter and Napoleon Dynamite.

The latter is likely to be the stable elect and the 2013 Lightning Stakes winner showed a glimmer of a form revival when staying on for fourth behind Abbotsbury in a Vaal turf 1200m last time. He obviously has his issues with respiratory noises reported at a previous outing, but is capable and likes to run on late off a fast pace.

Rested

Benbow

Specialist. The Leon Erasmus trained Benbow is a course and distance specialist and always gives of his best on this surface

Cape Winter is probably going to need the run and returns to action after a 275 day rest. Brett Webber’s multiple course and distance winner Hang Fire is a capable sand sort, but has gone off the boil recently. He was well beaten behind Yukon Gold in an MR 88 Handicap last time and appears to have lost some of that electrifying toe which he showed to such good advantage in 2012.

Class

All said and done, Across The Ice is the class horse in the race and could go in again. But he won’t have things all his own way, with the speedy La Volta likely to take the fight to her opponents as she enjoys doing. She could go all the way. Benbow is another serious consideration for top honours.

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