Glorious Vaal racing to curb those Monday blues

Monday meetings at the Vaal can often be dour and dowdy but today racing fans will be faced by a colourful array of talented runners.

This is the sand season, which culminates in the Emerald Cup meeting at the end of September, and some runners will be coming back from a rest as they ready themselves for the main event at the Vaal.

Two Pinnacle Stakes races top the card, one over 1600m and the other over 1000m.

Race 2 is over 1600m and unless trainer Sean Tarry can pull something out of the hat with Mr Tobin, the event looks at the mercy of Pylon and Magic Smoke, both trained by Mike Azzie.

Only six horses are carded to run and with National Road having lined up at Flamingo Park on Saturday, he is unlikely to run again in this race.

Pylon has been the celebrity on the surface of late and has won six times from seven starts on the Vaal sand. His lone defeat was to stablemate Masai Warrior in December last year and if one considers that he gave the winner 10.5kg and the fact that Masai Warrior went on to run second in the Grade 1 Gold Cup last month, that loss was quite impressive.

His win after that was an 8.25-length hammering of Uncle Tommy, who was a facile winner of Saturday’s Flamingo Mile.

Azzie has had him racing on the turf off a lower merit in his last three starts and, while not winning, Pylon achieved two close seconds. Under the race conditions he is handicapped 2kg better than Magic Smoke and 3kg better than Mr Tobin and with Robbie Fradd up, he looks the best bet on the card.

Magic Smoke has a record of three wins and three places from her six runs over the course and distance, so deserves respect. However, last time they met she finished 9.25 lengths behind Pylon and she is now 8kg worse off.

Mr Tobin’s merit rating has come down 2kg since his win in this race last year. He was not ridden out in May in his last run as jockey Gavin Lerena felt something amiss. Hopefully Tarry will have sorted that out and that S’manga Khumalo will not have the same concerns.

Race 7, the Pinnacle Stakes over 1000m, looks far more competitive, although on paper Across The Ice is weighted to win. He has only one win over the distance, though, and the full-brother to Capetown Noir appears to be at his best over 1200m.

The value could lie with the Leon Erasmus-trained Benbow, who beat Across The Ice by 2.25 lengths when they last met over the course and distance and who is only 1.5kg worse off. Erasmus has his yard in excellent form and the six-year-old son of Berzin has been at the top of his game at this track. Sherman Brown takes the ride.

Across The Ice has been priced up at 12-10 by Betting World, while Benbow is at 4-1.

La Volta is at 33-10, but the speedy filly has not performed that well in open company and perhaps Hang Fire could be a good runner to include in Swingers, Trifectas and Quartets.

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