Major Champion should enjoy a return to sand

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Major Champion should enjoy a return to sand

Trainer Geoff Woodruff

JACK MILNER
GEOFF Woodruff saddles just five runners at the Vaal on Thursday but appears set to provide his owners with a couple of winning stake cheques. Racing reverts to the sand track and that should be good news for Major Champion, who has not exactly excelled in his last couple of contests on the turf.

<p>Following three wins and a third in four races on the sand, the Manshood four-year-old returned to the grass to run in the Listed Java Handicap over 2600m on the Turffontein inside track. He was up with the pace but faded to 11th, 7.75 lengths behind Santa.&#160;<br />
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He was rested for the remainder of the year and made his comeback on New Year’s Day on the Turffontein standside track where he was never in the hunt. Racing over 2000m, he trailed in 26.50 lengths behind Crown Of Power.<br />
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Major Champion returns to the Vaal sand in a MR 92 Handicap over 1800m. Judging on his form, 1800m is probably his best distance as he has two wins and a third to his credit in three runs over that trip at the course.<br />
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His last run at the track was on Emerald Cup day when he contested the Vaal River Handicap. The gelding had to be driven out to catch stablemate Prince Asad but in the end he got on terms and drew off to win by 0.75 lengths.&#160;<br />
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After that Prince Asad went on to win a Pinnacle Plate at Turffontein and then finished fourth behind Rudra in the Steinhoff Summer Cup. On Saturday at Kenilworth, he will be taking on the likes of Pocket Power and Dancer’s Daughter in the J&amp;B Met.<br />
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On that form Major Champion, who will be ridden by Mark Khan, looks hard to beat in this eight-horse field – if he reproduces that sort of performance.<br />
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E-Fuel has also not raced on the Vaal sand since Emerald Cup day when he finished fourth behind Alimony in the main event. He lost two lengths at the start but finished strongly to run into the money. <br />
Although he has won three times over 1800m, he has never done so on the sand. He also has 62kg to carry but has the benefit of Piere Strydom in the irons and punters might be able to savour another Khan-Strydom finish, as happened at Turffontein on Saturday with Gold On Gold and Sunny Jim. This time, however, the advantage may lie with Khan.<br />
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The enigma of the race is Sun Screen. This six-year-old was one of the stars of sand early in his career. He was unbeaten at the Vaal in five starts but then joined Alistair Gordon’s KZN yard. He returned to the Highveld to contest the Emerald Cup in 2007 but went lame during the race and finished 6.25 lengths behind Narc.&#160;<br />
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He was given an “indefinite suspension’’ after that race but was back in action by December that year at Greyville under Herman Brown’s name. The Rich Man’s Gold gelding has now returned to Corne Spies’ stable and after two runs on the turf, returns to his beloved Vaal sand track.&#160;<br />
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Interestingly, there was a nibble at his 25-1 price last time he ran and if he reproduces his earlier form, not even a 62.5kg burden will stop him.<br />
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Strictly at the weights, Ruckus should have the beating of Major Champion but he has been inconsistent of late. He finished fourth behind Major Champion and Prince Asad and now has the benefit of a 5kg turnaround. However, two runs later he finished 50 lengths behind Fearless Gun.&#160;<br />
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Trainer Bradley Maroun gave him a rest after he finished 4.75 lengths back in fourth behind Candy Bar in November and that could have benefited him.<br />
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Run For Dollars has just 52kg to carry and although slightly under sufferance, Brett Webber’s runner could run into the money with Willie Figueroa in the saddle.</p>

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