Most trainers use these races to prepare their runners for more important engagements so the one concern is whether a horse is ready to win a warm-up run. Some three-year-olds who had big reputations as juveniles clash in Race 2, a Graduation Plate over 1450m on the Vaal Classic track today.
The two runners who attract the most attention are Janoobi and Africa Rising. Janoobi is highly regarded by trainer Mike de Kock, who always said his charge would be even better when he raced over further.
The son of Silvano won his maiden by seven lengths and the started favourite for the Grade 3 Protea Stakes over 1100m and took off late to beat Seattle Singer by 0.50 lengths. In order to try and keep him closer to the pace in the Grade 1 SA Nursery over 1160m at Turffontein just four weeks later, De Kock fitted him in blinkers.
Whether they upset him or whether there was some other cause, Janoobi was never in the race and finished seventh of the nine runners, beaten 7.10 lengths by Cloth Of Cloud.
That was last outing and he makes his seasonal comeback in this event. Gavin Lerena, who rode five winners at the Vaal on Saturday, takes the ride.
Africa Rising only made his debut on 6 July and beat Rock Of Africa over 1200m at Scottsville. Sean Tarry then threw his charge in at the deep end and put the son of Visionaire into the Grade 1 Premiers Champion Stakes over 1600m at Greyville on Gold Cup Dy. He did well to finish fourth, beaten just 1.30 lengths by Gunner.
Africa Rising made his comeback last month in a Graduation Plate over 1450m on the Turffontein Inside track where he took on Mogok Master, who was coming back from more than a year’s enforced layoff. Joe Soma was very bullish about the chances of his runner but when Africa Rising moved past him with 300m to run it looked all over for Tarry’s charge.
That’s when the fitness issue kicked in. Africa Rising was clearly short of a run and could not go on with his run. That allowed Mogok Master to regain the lead and run out a one-length winner.
Africa Rising should have come on substantially with that run and on that basis I will make him the horse they will all have to beat in this race. Lyle Hewitson takes the ride. He is also the better handicapped of the pair by 4kg.
Soma saddles Orapa who has talent and will have Piere Strydom up.