Conditions Plate over 1400m at Vaal (turf) on Tuesday
The highest purse on offer in midweek is that put aside for the winner of a conditions plate at the Vaal on Tuesday. Six of the runners have a merit rating in excess of 100 and that is probably why the original 26 entries have whittled down to just seven, writes Steve Furnish.
The highest rated of the septet, and indeed best in at the weights in the official handicapper’s book, is the Gary Alexander trained Rebel Knight. Despite being sparingly raced, and not finding the winner’s enclosure since March, this son of Jet Master has seen his merit rating rise some seventeen points since getting the better of Snowdon by a neck on 2kg less favourable terms than they meet here. Equally effective over 1000m, Rebel Knight ran a very creditable fifth to Val De Ra in the Computaform Sprint last season and he was only beaten a length and a half by the July runner up Pierre Jourdan in a conditions event over 1450m at Turffontein’s inner track on his seasonal debut back in September. Rebel Knight comes off a four month break here, but he should be right there if ready.
The only coupling in the race is that of Ormond Ferraris. He saddles both Snowdon and Straw Market. Another very flexible character in terms of distance, Snowdon was fourth in the Gauteng Guineas last season and he too has proven to be equally effective in sprints. In our book he ran up to his best rating when second to the talented Link Man on his seasonal debut in November and he again showed his well being when a very creditable fourth to Antious in the Gauteng Merchants later in that month. He comes off a three month break here, but he does go particularly well when racing fresh, and he did win his only previous start over today’s course and distance.
A winner of three of his six starts to date, the only 3yo in the race Straw Market is very close to the best of his generation, as he showed when third to the subsequent Gr1 Cape Guineas runner up Silver Flyer in the Gr2 Dingaans last time out. This son of Windrush also comes off a bit of a break here and taking into account the weight for age deficit, he is not well treated at the weights. He does have an enormous amount of scope for further improvement though and having already done well over today’s distance, he is not without a chance.
Racing for the first time at this circuit is Sporting Post’s best handicapped runner Kavanagh. As well as finishing third in the Dingaans last season, Mike De Kock’s charge was also placed in both the Cape and Gauteng Guineas. Those three events were all over further than they race here, but interestingly, Kavanagh has gained four of his five career successes around today’s distance. He’s in good form at the moment having found the winner’s enclosure in two of his last three outings and having won on him previously, Randal Simons knows him well.
The veteran Zorba’s Tale is yet to miss the frame in eight starts at this circuit and he has won two of his four outings over today’s distance. Without a win in ten starts now though, Lucky Houdalakis’s charge has been laid off twice during the course of the past twelve months and having failed to finish better than seventh in his last three outings (albeit in good company), he is not easy to fancy at the weights here.
One of four runners in the field to be returning from a break of over three months here, Wittenberg has shown flashes of real ability and he did gain his current mark in the handicap when winning over 1600m at Turffontein last time out. This son of Silvano is now undoubtedly taking on stronger, but he is unbeaten in two starts over today’s distance and taking into account his rider’s apprentice allowance, he is not without a chance at the weights.
The only runner with a merit rating below 100 in the field is the 6yo son of Al Mufti Master Blaster. Equally effective on sand, Dominic Zaki’s charge has gained his latest three wins around today’s distance. He has his third run after the rest here and should now be at his peak. He has been comfortably beaten in both starts since returning from a four month break in December though and worst in at the weights here, he does seem unlikely.
About The Pace
Although just seven runners go to post here, two of them usually make the running so at least a fair pace should be forthcoming. Rebel Knight, Straw Market and in particular Snowdon are all capable of making a bold effort here and I wouldn’t be surprised if either popped up. Whereas those three are all returning from a bit of a break here though, the very talented Kavanagh is currently fighting fit and best weighed in our book, he’s taken to get the verdict.