Tellytrack in Tatters

Greyville 18 November

Good Call. Sheldon Peters calls it as he sees it.

Tellytrack’s Jimmy Lithgow suggested it was not Anton Marcus’ ‘finest performance’. Commentator Sheldon Peters was categorical – ‘races are not run on paper!’ How and why did Anton Marcus get beaten on the 7-20 shot Vettel at the Greyville night meeting on 18 November?

It is encouraging and most stimulating and a long overdue change to have the broadcasting personnel  expressing an opinion. The diversity of interpretation is, surely,  after all what makes horseracing such an interesting game.

This was not Tellytrack’s finest hour either. The manner in which the channel production team delivered the evening and handled the final race objection was a joke. The general blundering and  the length of time that it took to show us a head-on of the final race objection is unacceptable. Then they got the outcome of the objection wrong. It was an utter unprofessional  disgrace.

No Hassle! Syd Cassel leads Tycoon Touch in with Brandon Lerena up.

The ride that attracted all the attention was Marcus’ second placed effort on the Mike De Kock—trained Argentinian bred Vettel in the fourth race, a Maiden Plate over a mile. The Jooste horse was backed as if the race was a mere formality but his supporters would have been panicking as his rider  was seen scrubbing away at a green horse ten lengths off the leader as they went round the turn and headed for home. By this stage, Brandon Lerena’s plan was coming together on Tycoon Touch and the bird had flown at the 300m marker. Vettel ran on much too late under a vigorous ride to grab second ahead of the moderate Odessey. Long-suffering owner Syd Cassel was on course to lead his colt in and it was a smart training effort – as he had run just four days earlier at Scottsville.

Marcus is not beyond making errors of judgement but he is just too much of a professional to have purposely and intentionally had his mount so far back and we have the feeling that the long-striding De Kock horse did not enjoy the slushy underfoot conditions tonight.  A reflection of both horse and rider’s ability is that they managed to make up the ground that they did in those final 300m and the son of Known Heights will very likely make good with punters next time out. But full marks to both Lithgow and Sheldon Peters for having an opinion. We are still not sure what the young commentator was insinuating with his ‘paper’ reference but he was spot-on and maybe punters were the real mugs here for climbing in boots and all in the heavy track conditions? You be the judge.

And maybe the real attention should have been focussed on the underrated Brandon Lerena who was recording the second leg of a deserving double. He rode an innovative race to grab first run on Syd Cassel’s very smart looking Royal Academy colt and trainer Michael Roberts would also have lauded the ride as it broke a haunting spell of just too many second places in the past few months.

Value Var! Cato Donato shows he is on the up.

Marcus would have redeemed himself with his detractors when riding a powerful and particularly determined race on the smart Var gelding Cato Donato in the fifth race,a  Graduation Plate over 1600m. The Joostes own all three Charles Laird runners here and while Cato Donato made the pace, their familiar silks did not dominate the finish as may have been expected.  Alec Forbes produced the Dennis Drier horse Storm Alterno with a determined swoop late to force the other Laird contender Ransom Of Choice into third. The third of their three runners, Big Winter Chill,  ran his usual in-and-out race and seems to put his best foot forward at every alternate start, although he may well have not enjoyed the heavy track surface.  Cato Donato looks a progressive type and the Litchfield Stud-bred underlined the value of buying a Var as he looks well on track to recovering his R180 000 Vintage price tag – and we note he stays a hard-run mile on the heavy stuff.

The first three races on the eight-race programme went according to plan with the backed horses obliging.  In the opening event Muzi Yeni rode an enterprising race when bouncing Alec Laird’s blinker-strike Savona into an immediate lead in the Maiden Plate over 1200m. Jumping from pole position the son of Spectrum showed good speed and pace to win easing up. It is quite difficult to imagine that this was his sixteenth shot at winning, and he won like a horse with a few wins in him. Dennis Drier’s Lord Leigh flew up late on his debut to record an impressive effort while the favourite Halabaloo only got going when the race was over and shunted into fourth.

Brandon Lerena rode the first of his two winners when steering the speedy Sweet November home in the Maiden Plate(F&M) over 1000m. The grey Lake Coniston filly has run seven places from her nine starts and was rewarded for her consistency with a smooth win for Alyson Wright. Herman Brown Jnr’s Miesque’s Star caught the eye again when running on strongly late and the Scott Brothers product should shed her maiden status over a little further very soon.  The Australian-bred Cupid’s Daughter caught the eye in third place and ran above expectations on her debut – her trainer Tony Rivalland declaring the 1000m to be ‘far too short’ for her.

Charles Lairds’ Metro Man is slowly earning himself the title of ‘Brass Of The Year’ and Anton Marcus once again gave him every chance in the maiden plate over a mile and opening leg of the Pick 6. Jarryd Samuel let Ra dash along at a suicide pace up front before folding as they turned for home. Marcus gave Metro Man his head but the Jallad gelding has less heart than a robot and he had absolutely no answer for the finishing burst of Ian Sturgeon on the grey Makaarem gelding, Tembot. The winner is a handsome fellow  bred by the Pickerings and trained by Herman Brown Jnr. Mike Pappas’ Spitting Mad reserves his rare best efforts for the city track and he ran on for third at 100-1 to pay a healthy R17 for a place.

Lightning marginally delayed the start of the fifth race, an Alowance Plate for fillies and mares over 1300m. Apprentice Athandiwe Mgudlwa took the Kotzen’s Jet Master mare Wings Over Skye to the head of affairs early and running fresh after her close to four month break, she almost held on with her opponents battling to make up ground in the mud. Deputising for the indisposed Sean Cormack, Nicky Roebuck took full advantage of the opportunity presented to him by Wendy Whitehead when he brought the smart Captain Al filly Reason To Believe down the outside to win her third race from nine starts. Roebuck, who rides the filly in work,  kept a cool head and rode a balanced race – the win also proving  again that middle of the table jockeys can win races when given the opportunities. Whitehead seemed particularly relieved after the race!

The jockeys are to be praised for getting through the meeting and a panel was convened prior to the final race to consider the risks of the severe kickback. It was agreed to move the starting stalls away from the inside rail to give the big field a fair chance to race on the virgin turf.  In spite of this measure they all drifted to the inside rail anyway and it was Sean Veale who produced a Herculean effort on the outsider Roll Call to win a narrow finish from Day By Day. Veale had to survive a Stipes objection as he drifted right across the challenging Day By Day at a  crucial stage. The contrasting styles of Veale on the winner and the beaten Samuel were interesting to watch. The one a break dancer and the other more of a ballet dancer. Veale is an animated rider and he would not have made any friends with the anti-whip brigade and really got stuck into his mount with the sabre. He almost turns around to smack his mounts and it doesn’t look too friendly to the uneducated eye.

Kept his cool. Jimmy Lithgow survived an evening in the Rivonia studios.

The rain failed to ruin the meeting but Tellytrack almost did. The studio presenters should perhaps consider forming  a union to sort out the technical incompetence in Rivonia. The production tonight was once again dismally lacking in basic professionalism and polish with Jimmy Lithgow being made a fool of while reading back results and dividends – and even horse names with limited and incomplete characters. The Friday evening viewing was not a congested schedule by any means of the imagination and it defies logic as to how the Producer seems unable to co-ordinate a simple screen with the Presenter’s voice. It reminds one of the circus that was the SABC way back in 1975. Nothing has changed in Auckland Park and the Rivonia crew seem intent on emulating their hapless colleagues from the state broadcaster.

Rod McCurdy, whom we hear has taken a management position in Gauteng with the racing broadcaster, will also have to polish up his own skills on this front as he didn’t come across too professionally in his stint alongside the superbly composed  Dave Mollett in studio on Wednesday afternoon this week. He stumbled over words and battled to read out the betting screen aloud. He was a different kettle of fish back home on familiar territory on track in Port Elizabeth earlier this afternoon. If he is the guy to kick behinds and crack the whip, then we may just have a problem.

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