Nicci Garner: Jockey Gavin Lerena, who has not ridden in a race since 4 January because he has been waging a battle against the Epstein-Barr Virus, will return to competition at the Vaal Racecourse on Saturday, when he has four rides.
The virus caused him “extreme fatigue and excruciatingly painful muscles” and the only cure was rest. He has been riding horses in work and is “strong”, so decided to dip his toe back in with only one or two rides on his first meeting back.
That figure doubled because “trainers asked and said their horses had a chance, so I accepted what I was offered”. He believes he is fit enough to handle all four.
His rides are Twice A Lady (trainer Candice Dawson) in Race 2, Greenwood Drive (Robbie Sage) in Race 3, Secret Potion (Geoff Woodruff) in Race 4 and Winter Watch (Roy Magner) in Race 5. All four should be in the firing line and must come into punters’ reckoning as they decide on their bets.
He believes his first ride back will be a winner. “Twice A Lady is a very nice filly and looks my best on the day,” he said.
This three-year-old certainly looks worth a wager. She ran a hugely promising third on debut in the hands of jockey Callan Murray, who is riding first-timer Charmz Luck – watch the betting.
The form of that Turffontein 1400m race won by Candy Kisses has not worked out that well but Twice A Lady, who drifted in the betting due to support for runner-up Poormanslady, has masses of scope for improvement and her three main rivals have had more runs than her.
She has a solid chance and looks the banker in same-race exotic bets.
Shakespeare InLove, unplaced for only the second time in her career over 1700m last time and probably better over this shorter distance, Diva Faustina, who ran well until the final 100m where she received a knock, and Pin Up Fold, who seems best down the Vaal straight but has experience over this course and distance, could be the horses fighting it out.
Best bet on the card is New Predator from the stable of Johan Janse van Vuuren in Race 6, a Pinnacle Stakes over 1400m.
This five-year-old, to be ridden by Weichong Marwing, has placed behind the best horses in the country, like Legal Eagle, Marinaresco and hot sprinter Bull Valley.
His last two races have been below par but he has the majority of these horses beaten on paper and it might pay to bank on him getting back on track.
He is only the second best-weighted runner in the race, but that is due to the handicappers dropping his rating after his last run, which might prove lenient.
The horse weighted to beat him is Heaps Of Fun, who is back to her best and won an 1160m FM 92 Handicap at Turffontein last time out. However, she would prefer further and might find herself tapped for toe in the early stages.