Nicci Garner: Amazingly competitive races are the order of the day at Turffontein on Sunday and anybody who takes the trip to the racecourse just south of the Johannesburg city centre looks set for an exciting afternoon.
Those who do decide to go racing stand a chance to win a five-night holiday for two in Mauritius, courtesy of Air Mauritius. Entry forms are available on course and can be deposited in the boxes at the info kiosk and in the grandstand.
The main event at the meeting, of course, is the Air Mauritius International Jockeys’ Challenge, which pits six of the best local riders against six international riders in six races. The challenge has been staged nine times and the locals have taken full advantage of home track knowledge to win all but twice.
While the teams’ rides on Sunday look well balanced, this year the international team could take the trophy abroad again, with England’s Martin Dwyer having a strong chance of winning the bronze saddle for the rider who scores the most points overall. Points are scored 30 for first; 15 for second; 12 for third; 10 for fourth; eight for fifth, seven for sixth; six for seventh, five for eighth, four for ninth and three for 10th. Any rider who cannot compete in a race gets an automatic seven points.
The challenge races form all legs of the Pick 6 and first blood could go the way of South Africa with Craig Zackey fancied to win the 1600m Maiden Plate aboard Ormond Ferraris-trained Tigerlace.
This Australian-bred filly has been knocking at the door and just failed against Rolled Silver in a 1450m race at this track last month. No 9 draw is not really in her favour but she often comes from nearer the back than midfield and could overcome that disadvantage. She will run a good race.
Australian Corey Brown (Truth Of Beauty), Ireland’s PJ Mcdonald (Secret Potion) and Greg Cheyne (The Red List) should follow her home, but follow any money on first-timers All Abuzz (Gavin Lerena) and Flaming Hot (Ireland’s Seamie Heffernan).
SA captain Anthony Delpech could notch up his first of two wins in the challenge when he teams up with Mike and Adam Azzie-trained Finding Troy in Race 5 over 1800m.
Finding Troy has good maiden form and will take full advantage of No 1 draw. He rates a weak Pick 6 banker and should be floated in Trifectas and Quartets.
Brown and promising Royal Resolution would rate bigger threats if they had a good draw, although it must be noted that Gary Alexander’s charge is not guaranteed to stay.
Ireland’s Pat Smullen could take a turn in the No 1 box after the camera flashes in Race 6. He rides Domedaris for trainer Robbie Sage and makes plenty of appeal in this 3000m marathon. It is the first time the four-year-old will travel beyond 2400m but he scored going away over that trip in his penultimate start and looks likely to stay this distance.
Stunned, the mount of Lyle Hewitson, looks the right one for Exactas, while Sess (Brown), Ali Bon Dubai (Dwyer) and Arlington (Cheyne) could earn minor money.
There is another possible banker in Delpech’s mount Sabina’s Destiny in Race 7 over 1600m. The filly has won both her starts since relocating to the Paul Peter stable from the Cape and, although her merit rating has risen considerably for those two successes, she might still have scope for improvement.
Noceur (Heffernan) looks second best, while Costa Da Sol (Khumalo), Smokey Affair (Smullen) and Snowdonia (Lerena) all have good prospects of running a place.
Dwyer can wrap up the challenge with two winners, the first in Race 8 over 1600m aboard Wrap It Up and the other in Race 9 over 1450m on Captain Chips.