The penultimate fully professional meeting on the Vaal sand track is being held on Tuesday. The racing operator then throws a R680 000 bone to owners and trainers, with an eight race workrider meeting restricted to maidens on Thursday.
It is all rather something of an anti-climax to a drama and soap opera that peaked with Phumelela’s rather sudden dig-up- the-sand announcement in July.
But the show looks likely to endure in the months ahead, judging from the lack-of-consultation lobby, made up mostly, one imagines, of owners, trainers and breeders of the sand specialists, who are not satisfied that minds have been applied.
There was some light on the horizon, with the news that the racing programme was adjusted in August already and will thus hopefully cater for the low merit-rated bread and butter types. And then of course, Kimberley is still an option – albeit at half the return on prize money.
But for now, the racing goes on and what a sentimental ending it would be to have the gallant sand warrior Uncle Tommy get back into the winner’s enclosure and win Tuesday’s topliner, a 1600m Pinnacle Stakes.
The R2,4 million son of Kahal has been around the block a few times and has registered 4 of his 12 victories, achieved in three provinces, on the Vaal sand.
He showed at his last run that he has lost little enthusiasm and vigour for the task at hand when ghosting up the inside rail and chasing Deputy Jud home to be beaten 2,25 lengths into second under topweight in the Gr2 Supreme Cup.
A repeat of that effort over the 200m extra in this race will see Uncle Tommy right there.
Trainer Corne Spies is one man who has voiced his opinion and is not happy to see the sand go. He saddles a trio of runners, headed by the grey Kiss Me Hardy.
The son of Captain Al won going away in Kimberley last Monday and judging by the post-race comments of jockey Andrew Fortune who was aboard there, he gives the feel of a ‘proper horse.’
That is underlined by his merit rating.
His stablemate All The Bids looks to be off form, but the same does not apply to the consistent Atso’s Time, who finished 2,75 lengths behind Kiss Me Hardy last time. He may be held again as he is a kilo worse off here, but is worth considering for quartets.
Andrew Fortune opts to ride Solar Triptych for Alec Laird.
Trippi’s mostly consistent son ran a 7,15 length fifth in the Supreme Cup – and frankly looks held by a mile by Uncle Tommy, who was almost 5 lengths in front of him – and whom he meets on 5,5kgs worse terms under the Pinnacle conditions.
The Luchelle Kruger trained Big Shot is an out-and-out sand specialist who has excellent course and distance form to his name.
The son of AP Arrow steps up into tougher company but after this he only has Kimberley to chase, and it makes sense to take his chances.
Sean Tarry’s Lady Of Kildare is the only mare in the race. She came good on the surface last time with a runaway win against her own sex. This will be a lot tougher.
Mike De Kock’s Smart Mart has excellent sand form and could be the dark horse returning from a short break after finding things tough going in the Gr2 Gold Vase at Greyville on July Day.
His stablemate Olympic Bolt was slow away and bumped last time before staying on resolutely to win a cracker over the course and distance in an MR 87 Handicap.
Tshwaro Appie rides him again but his 12 draw means that the combination will need luck on their side.
Like most races on the controversy rocked surface, this won’t be a walk in the park.
But Uncle Tommy is sending all of the right signals of late and his Supreme Cup run showcased his heart and ability.
It would be fitting for him to leave his mark here and he is the selection to beat Kiss Me Hardy and Solar Triptych.
The very last Vaal sand meeting is scheduled for Thursday 29 October, whereafter the track will be dug up, commencing 1 November.