JACK MILNER: SPRINTS take pride of place on the Vaal sand on Thursday with the running of the Woodland Sprint for fillies and mares and the Autumn Sand Sprint. Both are Non-Black Type events to be run over 1200m.
The Woodland Sprint looks the more decipherable of the two as Raise The Bar stands out above her opposition. She has a record of three wins and four places from her eight starts at the track, and a record of two wins and two places over the course and distance. Most importantly, she is well drawn at No 4.
Two of her last three starts were over 1000m and in both cases she found Hidden Beauty too good. However, those were brilliant efforts as under the race conditions Raise The Bar had to give Hidden Beauty 2kg. Had they been handicaps, Paul Matchett’s runner would have been in receipt of around 4.5kg from Sean Tarry’s filly.
Sandwiched between the two was a neck victory over Sapphire Ring over this 1200m. Dianne Stenger’s filly is 1kg better off with Raise The Bar and on paper should reverse the form. However, that day Raise The Bar seemed to falter once she hit the front but fought back well when she looked in trouble. As a result, she is expected to confirm that result.
Ugly Betty would prefer a little further but is coming back from a 79-day break and could be fresh enough to run well over this distance.
Fair Rosalind has some decent turf form but is an unknown factor on the sand. Should she adapt to the surface, she could go close.
Emerald Cup (Grade 2) champion The Mouseketeer heads up the field for the Autumn Sand Sprint and with his decent record on the track, Tarry’s charge looks the runner to beat. He won the Listed August Stakes over the course and distance but carried just 52.5kg and will now have 61kg to shoulder. He is drawn at No 9, which is not ideal but has enough class to win a race of this calibre. Robbie Fradd takes the ride for the first time.
Chrysalis looks a major threat. The four-year-old Captain Al gelding recently joined Alec Laird’s yard but when he raced at the Vaal last year he took a fancy to the sand track. He won on debut by 5.50 lengths, beating Second World who is no slouch on the surface. Chrysalis also did it from No 11 draw and that is no mean achievement over this course and distance
His second outing was over 1450m where he was caught on the line by Boylan Blaze but he then failed over 1600m when drawn at No 14 out of 16.
He is beautifully positioned at barrier No 2 this time and will have in-form Gavin Lerena up. It is worth noting that Lerena rode Captain Scott for stable last time he ran and is now aboard Chrysalis.
Winter’s Song was sent over 1450m for the first time this month but after racing up with the pace, had little to come. Paul Peter’s charge has won over 1200m at this track and could go close again. Richard Fourie takes the ride and they are well positioned at barrier No 5.
Captain Scott made a decent enough debut at this track when second to Calanish over 1450m, finishing 3.25 lengths back. Whether the shorter distance will suit him only the race will tell but to add to the uncertainty, jockey Juan Paul van der Merwe will need to overcome No 11draw.