Preview: Chad Baxter could return to form on difficult Vaal card

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<p>JACK MILNER<br />
SUPERSTITOUS punters may well resort to sticking pins into effigies if it will help them find winners at the Vaal. The nine-race programme on the sand track possesses many obstacles, none more than in Race 8, a MR 84 Handicap over 1000m.<br />
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Photo: Andre Kirsten</p>

<p>Sixteen runners go to post for this dash down the straight, which is further complicated by the fact that reserve runner Space Link would be my outright selection should he get a chance.</p>
<p>At least there is some respite for Pick 6 and Jackpot punters as there are a number of convenient couplings throughout the card. Andre Kirsten sends out three runners in Race 8, all with lively chances, as does Paul Matchett, and in the absence of Space Link, these two trainers could fight it out.</p>
<p>Kirsten runs Chad Baxter, Sphekepheke and Montaque, all three of whom have useful sand form.</p>
<p>Chad Baxter has won over the course and distance and showed he was coming to hand with a 4.25-length fourth to Battlestar Express over 1000m at Scottsville last time out. The victor went on to win his two races since and even third-placed Dante&rsquo;s Inferno ran well in his next start.</p>
<p>Kirsten&rsquo;s decision to put up Stuart Randolph is probably indicative that Chad Baxter is the stable elect as the Durban-based jockey is riding many of Kirsten&rsquo;s other runners on the card.</p>
<p>Chad Baxter was a highly rated juvenile, finishing fourth in both the Storm Bird Stakes and the Protea Stakes and fifth to Profit Report in the Falcon Sprint. Unfortunately, he has been suspended in the past for bleeding, but if Kirsten has sorted out that problem, he must be a contender.</p>
<p>Montaque has outstanding sand form, winning his last three starts on the surface. However, he hasn&rsquo;t run since 12 July last year and will probably be in need of an outing.</p>
<p>Matchett runs Stirling Highway, Lethe Lion Roar and Copper Jet, who is having his first run for the stable. All five of Stirling Highway&rsquo;s victories have come at this track and he has a record of two wins and three places in nine starts over 1000m here. He had a lot to do at the weights last time out in a Pinnacle Plate in which he finished seventh to stablemate Showroom. He is down in class and looks the pick of Matchett&rsquo;s trio.</p>
<p>Tattletale is the lone filly in the race but loves this track and has placed against the colts on many occasions.</p>
<p>Glowing Review ran a shocker when beaten 18.25 lengths by Stirling Highway last time but Geoff Woodruff&rsquo;s runner is a lot better than that and should improve.</p>
<p>Randolph is also making the trip to ride two horses for Durban-based trainer Mark Dixon – Shiny Finish in Race 7 and Valloire in Race 9. Shiny Finish won a Maiden Plate at this track but failed dismally in his most recent visit to the Vaal.</p>
<p>“He missed the break that day and Anton (Marcus) couldn&rsquo;t get him handy,&rsquo;&rsquo; said Dixon yesterday. “At least he&rsquo;s drawn against the paint but he is not the most reliable of horses, although I am hoping for a good run.&rsquo;&rsquo;</p>
<p>Dixon is far more bullish about the chances of Valloire. “If he puts up the same performance as he does in his work at home345 on the sand, he will win. There is nothing that stays with him on the sand, not Umngazi nor Surfin&rsquo; Home.</p>
<p>“He is a difficult horse to ride, which is why I brought Randolph up because he knows him well. Valloire is the main reason I&rsquo;m coming up,&rsquo;&rsquo; said Dixon.</p>

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