The work riders take centre stage at the Vaal tomorrow for the first leg of this season’s Work Riders’ Challenge.
This event is held over three meetings during the season and was introduced in order to upgrade the quality of the work riders.
With R50,000 in prize money to be won it is also an incentive for some of the most important people in racing who often do not get the level of recognition they deserve.
Some of these professional work riders are in hot demand among trainers both locally and abroad and the programme has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the earning potential of its graduates.
The riders accumulate points for each win and place – 10 for a winner, seven for second, five for third and three for fourth. The work rider who comes out with most points at the end of the three legs will come away with the R20,000 first prize. Second place earns R10,000 and third place R5,000.
As an added incentive there is R5,000 up for grabs for the winner of each leg.
The scratching of Collegiate in Race 8 at the Vaal today has paved the way for Mooney to get out of the maiden ranks.
Collegiate made his debut in Race 4 at Turffontein last Saturday and despite not having a clue what to do on a racetrack, still managed to run a 0.50-length second behind Tapenzee. He was carded to run again at the Vaal but trainer Tyrone Zackey pulled him out yesterday morning with the explanation that his charge had not had enough to recover from Saturday’s run.
He looked to be the best bet on the card but with Collegiate out of the way Mooney could prove very hard to beat. The three-year-old son of Captain Al is trained by Alec Laird whose stable is in excellent form at the moment. He has only raced six times and after three poor runs, has started to show some form.
Three runs back, over 1200m on the Turffontein Inside track, Mooney went off at 55-1 but ran a 2.75-length fourth behind Sir David Baird. His next run was over 1400m, this time on the Standside track at Turffontein, and he finished a 4.45-length third behind Seerite who was making his debut.
Last time out Mooney went over 1600m and went down 3.90 lengths to King’s County. That was a most promising run. King’s County was having his fourth start and had run behind the likes of Purple Diamond (on debut) and Alssakhra, who is highly thought of by the Paul Peter yard. King’s County won his race by 3.70 lengths so Mooney was just a head behind second-placed La Scala.
This time Mooney goes 1800m and that should suit him even better. The only horse with form to give him a run for his money is Hint Of Gold who finished fourth behind King’s County, 0.50 lengths behind Mooney. Gavin van Zyl’s charge was not an easy ride for Craig Zackey as he hung and was reported not to be striding out and could prove a handful for work rider Nkosithandile Ngqwangi.
Mooney, who is now quoted at 14-10, will be ridden by Siyabonga Mthembu.
There are quite a few first-timers in action so one will need to keep an eye on the betting. One of the most interesting is Schippers in Race 2. Bookmakers are not taking any chances with this daughter of Var and Geoff Woodruff’s charge has been opened at 1-1. Goodman Dadamasi takes the ride.
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