Phunyuka Vaal Sand Racecourse
Phunyuka Vaal Sand Racecourse

Ready To Run graduate, Phunyuka, winner of the 2009 Emerald Cup

(Photo : JC Photos)

R600,000 EMERALD CUP (Grade 2)

Vaal, Sand, 1450m

24 September 2011

David Thiselton Gold Circle
David Thiselton Gold Circle

David Thiselton

Gold CircleThe Emerald Cup, the richest sand race in Africa, will be run in just over a week’s time on Saturday, September 24 at The Vaal and it is a good time to look at what characteristics a horse needs to have success on this surface.

In America, where most racing takes place on dirt, early speed is everything and horses that are likely to have uncontested leads will usually come in for heavy support. This is in complete contrast to turf racing where horses that go off at top speed make defeat a virtual certainty as they will more often than not be swamped in the straight. On sand or dirt the front runners don’t get swamped because horses coming from behind are unable to produce the same sort of acceleration they can on turf due to the lack of traction.

On the 1000m Vaal straight, front running horses can obviously be caught from behind and this is particularly the case when the sand is heavy (generally speaking the sand surface will be faster if there is a lack of wind as the moisture from the watering will be retained). However, it is still noticeable that horses that have the ability to race handy and stay on will do well on the Vaal sand.

On turf, the lack of a turn of foot costs them in the finish. While they are running on at one pace, other horses with a strong turn of foot might be flying past. On the other hand the lack of traction offered on sand to the latter type of horse often blunts their turn of foot and they may not be able to get to the one-paced sort running on steadily in front.

Thus one can say that the two types of horse that generally do well on sand would be those that can maintain a high cruising speed throughout or those that can produce a sustained finishing run from behind. However, those horses that rely on a short finishing burst at the end of the race are better off on turf. Turf tends to be far less tiring on a horse, so speed holds better, leading to horses being tightly bunched. But on sand, horses that do not have necessary cruising speed are likely to be further out of their ground and there is the added factor of kickback which could see them fall even further back.

As far as action goes, good turf horses often tend to waste very little motion in their stride and have a much lower, daisy-cutting action. The rhythm a horse displays on the way down to the start on turf can be a good indicator of how it will run. However, on sand, it is more difficult to pick out horses on the way to the start, as “shuffling” actions often do well on the surface. It might be better to look at the form and see how handy the horse lies in the running and whether it can stay on all the way to the end of the race.

Pedigrees are also a useful indicator. In South Africa the progeny of Danzig line sires do well on sand and this particularly appears to be the case in races from sprints up to 1400m. The progeny of Mr Prospector line sires appear to do well over all distances on the sand. Some examples of Danzig line sires are National Assembly and his sons Announce, Sarge and National Emblem as well as Alami, Bezrin, Qui Danzig, Joshua Dancer, Modern Day, Classic Flag, Alado, Newton, Way West, Lizard Island, Fastnet Rock, Makaarem, etc. Some examples of Mr Prospector line sires are Right Approach, Western Winter, Kahal, Count Dubois, Windrush, Goldkeeper, Muhtafal, West Man, Lecture, Miesque’s Approval, What A Prospect, Malhub, Hobb Alwahtan, Fan Club’s Mister, Clash By Night, Parade Leader, Modus Vivendi, Tiger Hunt (female line), Albarahin (female line), etc.

There are of course sires outside of these lines that tend to produce good sand runners including Fort Wood.

However, using some of the trends mentioned in this article as a guideline can add some value to the traditional form studying methods that are heavily influenced by turf racing in South Africa.

Extract from