ST JOHN GRAY
Jack Milner: It might be two weeks late and the race now has a different format but we will finally have the running of what was the Grand Heritage tomorrow.
Two major differences. It is now run at Turffontein in the Inside track and it has been divided into two races. The races are now known as the World Sports Betting Grand Series Leg 1 and 2 but will still be run over 1475m.
The winners of the two races will qualify for a match race early in December at the Vaal to determine who carries the title of Series Champion. Each race carries prize money of R500,000.
It might not have the country atmosphere as would be the case at the Vaal but there will be plenty going on at Turffontein.
For punters there a number of carryovers, starting with the Pick 6 carryover of R470,137 with an estimated pool of R2.6 million. Then we have a Jackpot carryover of R32,748 and the pool is expected to reach around R850,000.
Even more exciting are the two Quartet carryovers of R100,000 on each leg of the Grand Series (Races 7 and 8) as well as a Pick 3 carryover on Race 6, 7 and 8
Trainer Johan Janse van Vuuren teams up with Gavin Lerena and their runners top the boards for both races.
Mardi Gras was always favourite for this race and he tops the boards for Race 8 at 16-10.
He is a worthy favourite but the one concern is that he is drawn No 11, not great on the Turffontein Inside track. Having said that, Mardi Gras comes from off the pace and is likely to be dropped out in any case. He has won his only race at the course.
Trainer Geoff Woodruff, no doubt, will be delighted with the move as he saddles 11-2 second favourite Zouaves who has raced four times on the track for three wins and a two-length third behind Puget Sound. In addition, he has landed an ideal No 3 draw so at 5-1, he could be the best value in this race.
Danza ran a good race last time when fourth behind Pietro Mascagni, beaten just two lengths and from No 5 draw it might be wise to include him in the Jackpot and the Pick 6. Mathew Thackeray rides Alec Laird’s charge and they are nicely drawn at No 5.
Another runner to consider is top-weight Mujallad from the Mike de Kock yard. He is drawn No 15 which is not in his favour but he is a decent sort and despite carrying 62kg has a top jockey in Bernard Fayd’Herbe. If he can overcome the draw without expending too much energy, this recently gelded son of Redoute’s Choice will have a chance.
“He is the class horse in his race, and his work has been exceptional,” said assistant Mathew de Kock. “Bernard will have to ride the race of the season from that draw, though, but he won two features from poor draws in Cape Town last weekend so his confidence will be high.
Janse van Vuuren and Lerena have had better luck in Race 7 (Leg 1) where they team up with Divine Odyssey. He is drawn No 3 and is quoted as the 9-2 favourite. Van Vuuren also has Irish Pride, who was the winner of the Grand Heritage in 2016.
Speaking about his three runners Janse van Vuuren said: “Mardi Gras is well weighted and took his run last week very well. He is a deserved favourite and will give a good account of himself.
“Divine Odyssey is a lovely horse but still a little immature and this is a touch on the sharp side. A good race to get him going for the bigger races later on.
“Irish Pride is a real old soldier. He has come down in the ratings, and at some stage will become competitive again.”
However, this race looks wide open and there could be very good value if one goes along with Lake Kinneret. His last race is one of the most impressive form lines in field as he ran in a Pinnacle Stakes won by Africa Rising who would probably be favourite if he ran in this event.
Lake Kinneret finished fifth, beaten just 1.80 lengths. The average merit rating for that race was 97 while for this event it is 89. He is beautifully drawn at No 4 and has one of the best jockeys in the country aboard in Richard Fourie.
Lake Kinneret is owned trained by St John Gray and his yard is in good form currently.
Another runner with decent form is Sean Tarry-trained Purple Diamond. He was a top two-year-old and won a Grade 2 race at Greyville with Nooresh Juglall up. This son of Var is showing improvement again after losing his form and must be rated with a chance in an open race.
Soldier On is second favourite at 5-1 along with Chepardo, both of whom have decent form and must come into contention.