The surface of the Vaal sand track came under fire today from veteran former champion jockey Piere Strydom. After winning the second race on 18 August, the brilliant rider just about summed things up when he said he had his opinion but everybody else seemed to have the answers.
That’s the way it works, Piere. Nobody listens to the people that should know like a vastly experienced jockey who has ridden all over the world. Rather dither around the issue with office bound experts and let’s see where that takes us.
Covered in kickback and looking like he had just wrestled Mike Schutte in a sandpit, a bemused Strydom was courteous and not scathing in any way when he suggested that the surface of the Vereeniging course sand needed to be addressed. He explained that he had an idea how to remedy the very loose surface which results in a torrent of kickback and clods. Basically very unpleasant working conditions for the jockeys and the horses and it must be a cause for concern for punters who back those horses who run from off the pace. Less intelligent jockeys than Strydom could subject their mounts to a pounding, resulting in them not putting their best foot forward.
Strydom is the consummate professional though and he explained how he switched his winning mount out wide in the second race after the gaps had not opened and also to avoid the kickback. This did the trick as Brett Webber’s West Man colt showed that the sand is his game and improved dramatically on his turf form. The fancied and well-backed Sebastian Bolt never showed in this 1450m Maiden but Gavin Van Zyl’s Rover T caught the eye when running on very well late to grab the third cheque.
The real entertainer on an otherwise unremarkable afternoon was Tellytrack presenter Jimmy Lithgow, who kept us entertained with his lighthearted and easy going approach. The star of stage and screen with the velvet voice, contributes far more to the day than most punters would give him credit for and as the lifelong husband of a former trainer, he knows what to look for. He may not be the stereotype gambling fanatic that tends to go hand in hand with his job, but he is wide awake.
We gave him credit in these pages some two months ago for daring to open his mouth and caution punters about a favourite and he did well today when suggesting that the fancied Tilman went down like a ‘crab’. Brett Webber’s Windrush colt, who had won his maiden at this venue by eleven lengths, works like a machine at home apparently and was fancied. But Lithgow was spot on with his cautious assessment and Tilman faded to a distant last. So a crab was a compliment. More of a wet fish!
The Tellytrack presenter then added a bit of humour to a dour afternoon after a problem with his ‘fangs’ as he called them. One could detect by the stilted slur in his voice that he was having a few denture issues. Thankfully his producer kept him off-screen during this mishap and Lithgow handled it all with the experience that only comes with decades of live theatre behind him.
Donovan Mansour was the day’s most successful jockey with Derrick David, who opened and closed the meeting with two unpopular longshots. Mansour won the third and fourth races, that included the vastly improved Lucky Houdalakis trained Nazran, who just gets better and better with racing. He also rode the beautiful grey Orpen gelding Causeway to an emphatic win for trainer Geoff Woodruff in the jackpot opener. This fellow bounced out after a two month break and a win at Cliairwood, to beat his eleven opponents in the MR 78 Handicap.