JACK MILNER: THERE was a lot to like about the manner in which Besma won her first race on the Vaal sand track last month and the Mike de Kock-trained filly could be one of the key runners on the surface later this year.
With the Grade 2 Emerald Cup and a number of other Listed and Graded races taking place in September, focus of attention will move to the sand track. De Kock has had a number of runners over the years who have fared well at this time of the season and Besma could follow in their footsteps.
The daughter of Western Winter has only raced six times for two wins and a 0.75-length second behind Talente. She failed to set the racing world alight in her first three starts, although she must have been showing something at home because she was supported to start odds-on favourite in two of them.
After she finished an 8.30-length fifth behind Amazing Grace over 1200m at Scottsville in July last year, Besma was given a long break. She returned to racing in March this year, making her comeback at Scottsville over 1200m. Once again she was supported and finally went off at 7-10. This time there were no mistakes. She jumped out smartly and led all the way to beat Constitution by two lengths.
She then attempted 1600m for the first time in a Progress Plate at Greyville but hung in on the turn and finished eighth, beaten nine lengths by Bermuda Sloop. After that De Kock tried her on the Vaal sand in a FM 76 Handicap over 1200m. Besma appeared to relish the surface and ran out a 2.50-length winner over Laurel Canyon.
On Monday she returns to the Vaal sand where she contests Race 5, a FM 86 Handicap over 1450m. She has a decent No 4 draw and races off a handy weight of 56kg. She won with such authority last time that there appears to be no reason why she should not handle the rise in class or the extra 250m.
She is a half-sister to 2010 Grade 2 Charity Mile November Handicap winner Alderry, who comfortably got 1800m, so there is every chance this distance will be within Besma’s ambit. That appears to be her only obstacle so it is worth taking the chance and making De Kock’s filly a banker in all the exotic bets. Tshwaro Appie guided her home last time and is aboard once again.
The danger could come from a filly who has yet to run on the sand. Gavin van Zyl saddles Cherry On The Cake, who is by Strike Smartly and out of a Fort Wood mare. On breeding she should enjoy the surface but as KwaZulu-Natal trainer Craig Eudey discovered last Thursday when he raided with Tamarillo and Isle Of Dogs, no matter how well a horse may work on the sand, you never know if they are going to perform on the surface until you have tried them out.
Interestingly, Cherry On The Cake will be ridden by De Kock’s regular jockey Anthony Delpech, who rode Besma in her first three starts.
Cherry On The Cake has disappointed on a number of occasions and Van Zyl will surely be hoping she will find a new lease of life on the sand.
Shattered Image has a record of two wins and four places in her six starts at the course and will have no problems with the distance, but she will have to give 2.5kg to Besma. Gavin Lerena rides for Roy Magner.