When in doubt, go with The Guv. That might be a mantra worth following tomorrow at the Vaal, where a tricky card suggests punters could do worse than rely on the mastery of former champion trainer Geoff Woodruff.
Woodruff floats just two runners down to the riverside course from his base at Randjesfontein – and could well come away with two winners.
Evening Bell in Race 4, a Maiden Plate for fillies and mares, looks the day’s best bet, while Emily Hobhouse in Race 6, a FM 74 Handicap, has a tougher task but has a lot in her favour.
A daughter of the mighty Horse Chestnut out of a Rakeen mare, Evening Bell has been retained for racing by breeders Drakenstein Stud, who clearly like what they see in the three-year-old.
She has only been to the races once, in a 1200m orientation out-ing at the Vaal in January, when she was squeezed out of the action at the start but recovered to pass all but two of her 13 rivals.
This time, Evening Bell goes over 1700m and she is likely to appreciate the extra ground. Gavin Lerena, who is ruthlessly hunting down winners at the moment, has secured the ride on Evening Bell and could hardly ask for a better starting gate than No 3.
There is a question mark over the filly’s inexperience but she still appears to be the most com-pelling banker option for exotic bets.
Competition will come from stablemates from the Lucky Houdalakis yard, Oh So Cold and Jungle Jane, who have had six and five runs respectively and not fared too badly.
The former had blink-ers fi ed last time and showed notable improvement, so rates the main threat. The latter gets first-time cheekpieces, pole position draw and the assistance of the indomitable Muzi Yeni.
In the sixth race, Emily Hob-house tackles 2400m and a clutch of opponents who she has got the better of in the past.
With only 53kg to carry, most of it in the shape of regular rider Chase Mau-jean, she could easily register a third career win in her 13th start.
Stacked up against her are some decent form lines beneath the names of Pilgrim’s Progress, Star Halo and Glamorous Scandal.
The latter has an advantageous weight turnaround with Emily Hobhouse, but ran indifferently in her last outing. Pilgrim’s Progress must shoulder all of 61.5kg for this marathon journey, while Star Halo is difficult to assess having been rather sparingly raced over more than two years.
For punters inclined to take a wider view, Knysna Rose and Jam-min Cat should be considered for permutations.