A once talented juvenile has found the big world beyond Port Elizabeth tough going. The left his hometown with stars in his eyes many moons ago, but has not seen the inside of a winner’s enclosure since. He gets his best chance yet to break his duck when he contests the R110 000 Pinnacle Stakes run over the Vaal Sand 1200m on Tuesday.
Horses don’t only often break the bank, they can also break our hearts at times. The Plunderer paid his way intitally so falls into the latter category at this point in time.
He won four of his first seven races, including a Gr3 feature, while in the care of Gavin Smith in the Eastern Cape in 2010, but things have gone pear-shaped ever since he ventured South to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The four year old gelded son of Spectrum ran a dismal ninth behind Top Seller in the 2011 Investec Cape Derby at Kenilworth on J&B Met day on his first away race. He then popped up in the North at Turffontein a month later in the Gr2 Gauteng Guineas. He finished 11,50 lengths behind another enigma in Link Man and then vanished for eight months before reappearing in November.
A return to a semblance of anything near what we know he is capable of has been slow in coming, but The Plunderer has looked on the right track since running an eyecatching second to Rabadash in an MR 94 Handicap over 1450m at Turffontein in mid- April.
He subsequently held his form with a good fourth on turf behind Meadow Magic in a higher rated race over the same trip and then his last run on the sand, is the one that intrigues.That was two weeks ago over the course and distance, when he was slightly slow, rushed and then stayed on to run third 3,25 lengths behind Boss Cat.
He had Prime Mover, whom he meets on similar terms here, beaten there as well as Gold Game. It was a solid first run on this surface and if Fransie Herholdt can avoid the nasty kickback and energy-sapping implications of his 8 draw, he could run a big race. The Plunderer’s connections will be hoping so and no doubt reflecting back to 1 October 2010 – the day he recorded his last win and praying that they may have found the four year-olds winning solution on the sand
Up The Game
An interesting value runner may be Paul Matchett’s Brazillian-bred Gold Game who jumps with the advantage of the best draw and has been raising his hand quietly at his last few starts.
Last time out he ran on well to finish 1,75 lengths behind The Plunderer over this course and distance, when giving away a kilo. On paper The Plunderer should beat him again as the Pettigrew horse has another 1,5kgs in his favour here. Gold Game, while not having won since the beginning of 2011 when getting the better of a fair Pinnacle Stakes field at long odds over 1000m on the sand, looks like he may just be recapturing his better form of old.
Although he is rising seven and not getting any younger, like the rest of us.
Robbie Fradd rides the pacy Legislature for Mike Azzie and the son of National Assembly has recorded all of his four wins on turf. He is very fast and is well drawn, but has breathing issues and frankly deters us from recommending him too highly. We do not see any likelihood of him extending himself to win over 1200m on this surface. Legislature’s best effort on the sand was over 1000m when he ran Boss Cat to 3,50 lengths in an MR 96 Handicap. Gold Game was 2,25 lengths behind him when giving him 4kgs. They are closer here and we prefer Gold Game over the extra 200m.
Gold Game’s stablemate Secret Life lost his jockey at his last outing, but his previous sand form is quite encouraging and he is probably the standout course and distance specialist in the field. He ran a cracker when a superb four length fourth behind recent sand award-winner The Mouseketeer in the Gr3 August Stakes when giving lumps of weight away to everything that ran ahead of him. If Secret Life can reproduce that run , he would win this but he has had only one outing since and appears to have serious soundness issues.
St John Gray’s Super Trouper changes career direction after winning four of his twenty starts on turf. The son of West Man has never won over 1200m and tries the sand for the first time, but he hails from a yard that produces regular winners on the surface and he won’t be starting here without having shown something at home. He is also very fit and has a no-excuses 3 draw.
The trio of pacy fillies is headed by the Sean Tarry-trained Tiger Ridge filly Follow The Piper who returns to arguably her favourite course and distance. She has unfortunately pulled the widest draw which will count against her but she appears to have had excuses at her last few starts after a four run winning flush . Those wins were all on the sand and she flopped when being switched to the turf in an MR 89 Fillies Handicap in January. Back on the sand she also appears to have developed a habit of jumping slow and last time out in the Queen Of The Sand, she added to her woes by running wide. Despite that she still ran on to finish 4,50 lengths behind Mina Salaam.
Piere Strydom deserts Follow The Piper for the formless Strike Master, which is not a positive indicator, but Brandon Lerena gets aboard and given his chance to work a miracle from the draw.
Louis Goosen’s Candy Cotton has drawn in the doghouse right alongside Follow The Piper and appears to be at her best over the minimum trip. She has in fact never won beyond 1000m and there is no reason to believe that she could improve on that statistic here.
Laurel Canyon has drawn best of the three girls at 2 and has a handy galloping weight of 51,5kgs. She has been largely restricted to her own sex and may have to lift her performance to have a shout here.
Last week’s results on the Vaal sand were topsy-turvy indeed, with the authorities responding to the jockey moans about the kick-back and loose surface layer, by compacting and rolling the track to the point where it was running faster than the Gautrain. That upset the form and the results, including the well-fancied Mr Tobin who was all at sea and run off his feet.
Punters are urged to watch the Phumelela tractors and rollers and the early results before making selections. We expect Follow The Piper and Candy Cotton to go quicker than last month’s paycheck. That could set the stage for Gold Game and The Plunderer to run on late and fight over the spoils.