geoff woodruff
geoff woodruff

Geoff Woodruff - quietly confident about Private Jet

(Photo : Summerhill Sires Brochure)


Turffontein, 1 May 2010

NICCI GARNER : Pierre Jourdan’s bid for Triple Crown glory on Champions Day has had to be postponed for a week due to the weather and many punters are wondering what impact the delay may have on the runners engaged for the richest day in South African horseracing.

Champions Day was first postponed until Tuesday and then to this coming Saturday after some 70mm of rain in the last 10 days, so the nation’s racing fans are still holding their breath in anticipation of watching the star colt with the Roman nose try to make history by becoming only the second horse to win the SASCOC SA Triple Crown.

Pierre Jourdan, who is currently on offer at 11-10 for the third and final leg, the R1.5million SA Derby, will not be inconvenienced by a soggy track and the new beach training track at Turffontein has proved a boon for his trainer Gary Alexander and other trainers there, allowing them to work their horses through the wettest summer in some three decades.

At this stage the track is not drying as fast as was hoped because of the cold and overcast weather and weather tipsters’ forecasts for the next few days differ significantly. For instance, the SA Weather Service predicts Friday and Saturday will be “partly cloudy with showers and thunder showers’’ and estimates that 8mm of rain will fall on the two days. On the other hand predicts Friday will be “sunny and nice’’ with maximum temperatures in the region of 22 degrees Celsius and Saturday will be “partly sunny and pleasant’’ with a high of 21 degrees Celsius. If the latter forecast is correct, the track will get the chance that it needs to dry and racing should definitely be able to go ahead.

Trainers of the big runners also have differing opinions about how much the postponement will affect their runners’ chances.

Those who will be most affected by the delay will be the visiting horses from KwaZulu Natal because of altitude issues. The rule of thumb for coastal horses raiding on the Highveld, where the air is more rarefied, is to bring them up a month before the race so they have a chance to acclimatise or to travel them as close to the race as possible.

Durban-based Herman Brown has two runners carded, 33-1 chance Lion’s Blood in the R2million Champions Challenge over 2000m and Intellectual in the R1million Computaform Sprint. His runners arrived at Turffontein on Friday last week, primed to the minute.

“While neither will mind soft ground, I’m not too optimistic,’’ Brown mourned yesterday. “They are unlikely to run to their best form after a week away from home, but funny things do happen. There are no fixed rules in this game and we’ll take our chances. “The delay will affect Intellectual less over the 1000m distance than it will Lion’s Blood over the 2000m,’’ he confirmed. “But Lion’s Blood does like Turffontein and runs well there.’’

Champion trainer elect Mike de Kock, who needs only three more winners to reach the 2000-winner milestone, will saddle the favourites in the Champions Challenge (Rudra) and the SA Oaks (Here To Win as well as second favourite Alderry).

He is philosophical about the postponement: “We’re all in the same boat,’’ he said. “The horses are all very fit and there’s not much more we can do with them. Providing they get some exercise to stretch their legs, they won’t fall off in a week. Anyway, sometimes having a couple of days off does them the world of good!’’

Charles Laird, who fields Computaform Sprint favourite Warm White Night, as well as Champions Challenge second fancy Smart Banker and several other short-priced runners, is fuming about the double postponement.

“If a race meeting cannot take place on the scheduled day or the day after, it should be put off for a week,’’ he said. “These three-day postponements (Saturday to Tuesday, for instance) wreak havoc because you can’t work the horses in between. These are not motor cars that you can just take out the garage whenever you need to - and you can’t give them hard work 24 hours before a race meeting. They do need to get out and stretch their legs. And the Randjesfontein sand tracks are under water! I understand that we’ve had an unusually wet season, but the Turffontein track staff should be experienced enough to make an early call and not mess us around.’’

Vaal-based Geoff Woodruff is quietly confident about Private Jet, who won last year’s Computaform Sprint. He believes his runner has only Warm White Night to beat.

The Vaal has not had quite as much rain as Turffontein and Randjesfontein and the affable trainer is happy to continue his “maintenance programme’’ with the defending champ, who beat Rebel King and Warn White Night in a thriller a year ago.

“Of course he was prepared to run last Saturday and we’ve lost one fast work-out and a pace work-out, but I don’t think it’ll inconvenience us too much,’’ he said.

Extract from Racing Express