THERE is little question that the 2013 renewal of the R600 000 Gr2 Emerald Cup at the Vaal on Saturday boasts one of the best quality fields in the nine years since the Oppenheimer owned Hilti won the inaugural running of what is still Africa’s richest race on sand.
While the duo of the brilliant Pylon and the rejuvenated Uncle Tommy are clearly superior, the contest is of such a nature that a case can be made for any runner that catches the personal fancy.
The 1000m run for home is a test of ability, strength of character and jockeyship, and jumping as they do on the fringe of the turn, the barrier draw is all important.
Heading the weights, Mike Azzie’s Pylon is the highest ever rated horse on sand in our history, and has earned his A grade credentials with some superb performances.
He set the tone on Emerald Cup day last year when winning the NBT Vaal River Handicap run over 1800m beating Master Entertainer by 7,25 lengths. Since then he has won a further five races by an aggregate of 31,5 lengths.
The single biggest question mark against Pylon will be his ability to reproduce his peak ability over the shorter test of the Emerald Cup.
Pylon’s major challenge could be provided by the consistent Uncle Tommy. The son of Kahal has been reborn on the sand and has proven himself to be up with the best. He gets the services of the wily veteran Kevin Shea.
The best of Sean Tarry’s trio on current form may be the Tiger Ridge gelding Tiger’s Retreat, who is in form and well and has won 4 of his last 8 starts. He comes off a two month rest and has his first run on the sand. In his favour, he is well drawn at 4 and is guided by one of the country’s top sand trainers.
Here Comes Billy is one of the most exciting prospects around. A winner of his last three starts in impressive style, he opened his sand account in the August Stakes in promising fashion and looks set to build on that from a decent draw here. He will be ridden again by S’manga Khumalo, who has formed a winning partnership with him.
Charles Laird’s Contador will be ridden by Anton Marcus, and the son of Var has proven quite enigmatic. The 2013 Gr1 Golden Horseshoe winner has shown that he can go with the best of them, and while there may be some support for the argument that he has not produced his turf form on the sand, we should not forget about his storming win in the 1000m Non Black Type Sophomore Sprint a year ago.
Julius Mariba, a big moment beckons.
Mike De Kock, who has won the race before with Hilti and Meadow Magic, saddles the smart Western Winter filly Tayba, who has won her last four starts, of which three were on the sand. While Tayba (headline photo) faces the challenge of a 10 draw and comes out of female company into the hard-knocking big league, she has the ability to turn it on and is ridden by Julius Mariba who has been aboard in all her four recent wins.
Everything points to a great race and a thrilling contest. The sentimentalists may be leaning towards Pylon. And with good reason too. With his welterweight and running over a distance short of his best, a victory would elevate him to equine hero status. And with the industry hardly acknowledging sand achievement, with no Equus category, he can only do his talking on the track. Uncle Tommy and Here Comes Billy will both be in the firefight. Then we also cannot discount the likes of Tayba and In A Rush. It should go all the way down to the wire. – Extracted from a race preview by Sporting Post. (www.sportingpost.co.za).