Mike Moon: Ormond Ferraris might be 85 years old but his knack with racehorses remains as effective as anyone’s – with a winner-to-runner ratio right up there with the young titans of the training ranks.
The wily veteran takes two horses to the Vaal on Tuesday, and only fools would bet against him coming away with a haul of prize money.
He fields the most intriguing runner on the card in Captain Of Tortuga, in Race 2, a Maiden Plate over 1400m around the Vaal turn.
If this three-year-old runs to his obvious promise he is the best bet on the card.
Captain Of Tortuga came out of a yearling sale ring with a R4.5-million “sold” sticker on his backside, which immediately created some expectation. Sent to champion trainer Justin Snaith in Cape Town, the colt had four outings – the last two at very short odds – but failed to find the winner’s circle.
Owners Drakenstein, Team Valor and the Singhs shipped him upcountry to Ferraris’ Turffontein barns hoping a change of scenery might help him realise his bloodline potential – he is by Captain Al, from top Jet Master mare Ebony Flyer.
Rested and gelded since his last effort, in July at Kenilworth in which he was a close-up second after casting a shoe in running, the young fellow should have his mind on the task at the riverside course.
He is weighted to win easily, while a No 1 draw is ideal for grabbing a premium galloping spot as the 15-horse field swings into the right-hand turn right after the jump. Jockey Sherman Brown is an old hand at the skills needed to get a young horse well-positioned.
A 129-day break from racing is unlikely to be a problem with Mr Ferraris in charge.
Brown, a long-standing Ferraris ally, also hops aboard the stable’s other runner on the card, King Of The Sky in Race 5, an Assessment Plate over 1600m around the turn.
This three-year-old is nicely bred, too, being by Silvano out of an American mare, but cost rather less at R300,000.
He has had four outings for one win and two thirds and, with a merit rating of 90 and a mass of just 55kg in the saddle, could be the sort of decent bet Assessment Plates often offer up.
However, there are very real threats, particularly from two other aristocratic one-time winners, Protea Paradise from the Mike de Kock yard and Sweet Red from the Johan Janse van Vuuren operation.
The former made his debut in August when he showed spirited suspicion of the new surroundings and, unsurprisingly, didn’t shape – despite being backed into odds-on favouritism.
Protea Paradise’s second run was a different matter as he got his mind on the job and scooted to a 3.70-length victory over this distance on the Vaal Inside course. His partner that day was Gavin Lerena, who will do duty again.
Sweet Red is an Australian-bred filly by stand-out stallion Snitzel. She has been in the money in all four starts to date and opened eyes with a nine-length demolition job of a maiden field at the Vaal this month.
With a resurgent S’manga Khumalo in tow from a No 2 draw and just 52.5kg to carry, Sweet Red will give her male opposition plenty to think about.