Click above to watch Hurricane Force and Renegade
in the Computaform Express Pinnacle Stakes
(Footage : Tellytrack)
THE EMERALD FESTIVAL OF RACING
Jack Milner writes for the The Citizen that The Emerald Festival of Racing kicks off at the Vaal on Thursday with the Listed Hampton Handicap over 1000m. The two-day festival of racing on sand culminates on Saturday with the running of the R600,000 Emerald Cup over 1450m.
Trainer Charles Laird has been fully supportive of all the meetings on sand. His runners totally dominated the major meeting at Flamingo Park last month, when he captured both the Racing Association Mile and the Sprint with Crown Of Power and Cyber Case respectively.
Cyber Case was particularly impressive. He flew out of the stalls and went at a blistering pace, which he kept up relentlessly. At the line he was still 7.75 lengths clear of Special Award and won in a remarkable 56.38sec.
Despite that effortless victory, stable jockey Anton Marcus has chosen to ride stablemate, the 2007 Ready To Run graduate Hurricane Force, in the Hampton. The Muhtafal gelding has won three of his five starts over the course and distance and was an impressive 1.25-length winner over Emerald Cup runner Renegade last time out.
Marcus may also have been swayed by the 4.5kg penalty handed to Cyber Case for his Kimberley win, which sees him carry 57.5kg. Hurricane Force, meanwhile, has just 54.5kg to shoulder and that makes him most competitive.
Following a two-month rest from May until July, Hurricane Force was equipped with blinkers. His first start sporting the additional equipment was a disaster and resulted in his worst run on the sand. He was up with the pace and then stopped to a standstill and finished 7.50 lengths behind Bismarck.
While disappointing, that failure probably had more to do with his needing the run than the blinkers. Whatever was amiss swiftly vanished in his next start when Hurricane Force slammed Renegade.
Cyber Case would be an obvious choice for second, based on his Flamingo Park win, but the handicappers have made it impossible for him to beat Flintlock - on paper at least. Gary Alexander’s charge was an impressive winner of his only start on the Vaal sand, finishing 3.85 lengths ahead of Cyber Case.
Because Flintlock was penalised just 1kg for that win, Cyber Case now meets him on 3kg worse terms. That makes his task impossible and reduces out handicapping system to a farce. It begs the question: is it not time the handicappers stopped basing their decisions on races in isolation and start looking at the picture in its entirety?
Flintlock looked all at sea early in that race but took off late to win going away. On a line of form through Renegade, he should not beat Hurricane Force. Flintlock beat Renegade by a length in receipt of 3.5kg, while Hurricane Force beat Jan Breedt’s runner by 1.25 lengths, getting 3kg. As Flintlock has to give 4.5kg to the Charles Laird runner in this contest, he will need to improve to win.
Narc clearly needed the run when fading to finish 11.25 lengths behind Hurricane Force and should run a little better this time around. Piere Strydom has stuck with the ride, so he must have felt there would be some improvement to come.
Mike de Kock sends out Scarlet Letter, who will be having his first outing in 600 days. He is terribly unsound but is unbeaten in two runs at this track. Now seven, he shoulders just 52.5kg and if fit enough, could surprise.
The best outsider could be Dominic Zaki’s Big Commotion. On the surface there is little to recommend him but last year he finished second to Gold Game in the Sophomore 1000 on Emerald Cup day. “Willie’’ Figueroa takes the ride and Big Commotion could prove great eachway value.