Standing Tall

Listed Highveld Sand Challenge, at Vaal on Tuesday


Sand Master. The Mike Azzie trained Pylon looks ready to take top honours in the Listed Highveld Sand Challenge

Trainer Mike Azzie sends out the current King Of The Sand at the Vaal on Tuesday. The Fort Wood gelding Pylon is in the form of his life, and looks well weighted to win the R200 000 Listed Highveld Sand Challenge run over a mile.

The ten strong field includes yet another sand specialist in Mr Tobin, as well as a former Emerald Cup winner, The Mouseketeer, who bounced back to form last time out.

They are part of a three way coupling from the Sean Tarry yard that includes the ascending star, Taptap Makhatini. Azzie’s three way coupling are all Fort Wood progeny, and seasoned sand campaigners. Racing personality Jimmy Lithgow has a knack of naming good horses, and he numbers Slumdogmillionaire and Pylon amongst his baptisms of note.

The Best

Pylon loves the sand and is one of the best around on the surface. He has won six of his last eight starts on the sand by an aggregate of over 42 lengths! It is early days yet, but the Mike Azzie 4yo looks set for a major challenge on Africa’s richest race on sand, the Emerald Cup, and will be looking to take his next step with a smooth win here.

Pylon will be ridden by jockey Gavin Lerena, who will be desperate for a change of luck in what has got to be the longest drought of his short but impressive career to date.

The Rest

Mr Tobin

Old Master. Mr Tobin is top class on sand and could regain his better earlier form to challenge Pylon

Robbie Fradd rides Eugenes, who returned to form with a solid second last time out behind The Mouseketeer in the Riverside Handicap. Eugenes shed his maiden over a mile on the turf, but is unproven on the sand over the same trip, and looks unlikely to get past his highly charged stablemate, Pylon.

City Of Bells is a powerful galloper who carries a paperweight courtesy of his young apprentice rider. He was reported fatigued after his unplaced run in January, and being outclassed in the Listed Wolf Power, ran another below par race last time out. Sean Tarry has a very strong hand as usual, and he sends out three runners.

Mr Tobin won this race last year and has won 3 of his 8 starts since. He is top class on the sand, but ran a shocking 20 lengths behind Pylon when carrying 65kgs last time out. Mr Tobin gave Pylon 7kgs there and now meets him at level weights. If he bounces back to his best, he could give the Azzie horse something to think about.

The Test

The Mouseketeer returned to his form after an extended blank spell when winning the Riverside Handicap run over 1450m last time out. He ran on very strongly there and beat Eugenes by 1,50 lengths. He meets the Azzie horse on the same terms.

Tarry’s Albert Hall gelding Taptap Makhatini is undefeated in four runs on the sand and comes in on a handy galloping weight from a good draw. He comes in under sufferance, but looks like a youngster with plenty of scope, and must be included in all calculations.


Azzie and Tarry appear to have a stranglehold on the race with their six runners, and the balance should be hard pressed to upset the top six. Roy Magner’s Eastern Cobbler is a way above average sand horse, who ran a six length third behind Mr Tobin in this race last year. He has not won a race in the ensuing twelve months, but is 3kgs better off with Taptap Makhatini for a narrow beating over the course and distance at his penultimate run.

Sherman Brown and Barend Botes team up with Mabuko Spirit, who should need this run after a break from racing of almost nine months. Chris Erasmus’ Blue Concorde has very poor recent form and would be a surprise winner.

The lightly weighted Roman Warrior is a game gelding, but his sand form is not strong enough on paper to challenge the chief runners. He could run a place at best. Pylon is a confident selection to beat Taptap Makhatini and Mr Tobin.

The R150 000 Listed Queen Of The Sand is the fillies equivalent and will be run as the supporting feature event on the programme. A field of ten fillies and mares go to post in a tightly contested event.

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