Mike Moon: Racing fans might have lost out on the spectacle of the 28-horse Grand Heritage cavalry charge down the Vaal straight on Saturday, but they still have plenty of excitement to look forward to with the meeting having been shifted to Turffontein.
The state of the Vaal turf might be dodgy, but punters are assured good conditions for wagering at the city track. A tantalising betting menu has been put together for the reconstituted 10-race card.
Most notably, a Pick 6 Megapool of R2.6 million will be up for grabs, thanks to a R470,137 carryover and plenty of pent-up interest in this race meeting.
And, instead of just one “Grand” race, punters have two to play with. Turffontein isn’t wide enough for 28 horses running abreast, so the Heritage has been split into two races of 14 runners each – the World Sports Betting Grand Series Leg 1 and Leg 2 – contested over 1450m around the bend of the Inside track.
Each Grand Series leg features a Quartet Maxipool with a likely pot of R400,000. Each has been boosted by a R100,000 carryover.
With betting odds on both sets of runners fairly concertinaed in the middle of the boards, and with some quality horses lurking at longer odds, the potential for bumper Quartet payouts is high in both heats.
Adding spice to the mix is the fact that trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren and jockey Gavin Lerena are being tipped to win both legs – the first with Divine Odyssey and the second with Mardi Gras.
Race sponsors World Sports Betting have the former at 7-2 favourite and the latter at a cramped 16-10. A TAB Double on these two might be a sensible wager.
There are further carryovers on the TAB menu.
Firstly, the Jackpot, which kicks off in Race 5 has a R32,748 launching pad, which should see its pool soar past R850,000.
Secondly, the Pick 3 starting in Race 6 and covering the Grand Series legs starts with R14,257 in the kitty and could grow to a handsome R75,000.
All this big money on offer will stimulate interest across the betting card.
TAB reckons the pool for the BiPot will hit R400,000, while the ever-popular Place Accumulator is estimated to crack R900,000.
Other bets set to draw more interest than usual are the BiPot Express that starts in Race 7, Leg 1 of the Grand Series, and the Jackpot Quickmix that starts in Race 9.
In addition to the two main races, worth R500,000 each, there is the World Sports Betting Grand Series Consolation – Race 6 on the card – for entries that just failed to make the cut.
The field for this race is as competitive as for the other two – if not more so – with the likes of Mr Winsome, a six-time winner who has competed at the highest level, Catkin from Joey Ramsden in-form Highveld raiding party, recent winners Penny Royal and Strawberry Pavlova, and Big Mistake, one of trainer Ashley Fortune’s recent acquisitions.
Mardi Gras was ruling favourite for the now-scrapped Grand Heritage, and is an even stronger fancy in Leg 2 of the Grand Series. The four-year-old grey son of Oratorio cost R3.2 million as a yearling and has been sparingly raced for two wins in seven starts.
Pundits clearly believe the time has come for him to shine on a big stage, with Geoff Woodruff-trained Zouaves, at 11-2, and Mujallad and Tsitsikamma Dance at 7-1.
In Leg 1, 7-2 shot Divine Odyssey faces more betting heat with Soldier On, Chepardo and Rings And Things all quoted at 5-1.
Betting on the World Sports Betting Grand Series races:
7-2 Divine Odyssey; 5-1 Soldier On, Chepardo, Rings And Things; 7-1 Sail For Joy; 8-1 Hakeem; 10-1 Kings Archer, Purple Diamond; 14-1 Count Tassilo; 20-1 Dan The Lad; 33-1 Finchatton, Clever guy, Lake Kinneret; 40-1 Bold Coast.
16-10 Mardi Gras; 11-2 Zouaves; 7-1 Mujallad, Tsitsikamme Dance; 10-1 Bolf Viking, Full Of Attitude; 14-1 African Ruler, Danza; 20-1 Irish Pride, Huyssteen; 25-1 Pilou, Daffiq, London Sunset; 50-1 Rebuked.